The announcement comes at a time of growing divisions between local government and the health service over bed blocking*, which is widely seen as a major contributor to the NHS's present difficulties**. The new technology offers local authorities a way of continuing to support people in their own homes, which they say is increasingly difficult.
To tackle one cause of bed blocking, in October 2016 the London Borough of Hounslow partnered with West Middlesex Hospital to help improve the quality and speed of some discharges by providing a Linkline+ Telecare kit, based around a specialist mobile device with an emergency button.
Emergency buttons are not new but traditionally they involve costly equipment installations at home, with discharges sometimes delayed days or weeks while the work is done. By contrast, at the heart of the Telecare kit is a choice of two specialist mobile devices, OwnFone and Footprint, that end the need for fixed installations. West Middlesex Hospital keeps a number of the kits to hand, with the devices already live, so discharges can happen quickly.
OwnFone is a purposefully simple, lightweight mobile phone. For the Telecare kit it is configured with an SOS button and pre-programmed with the Linkline+ emergency number. Footprint is an even smaller, lightweight, wearable GPS tracking device. It's small enough to attach to a key ring, keeps tabs on the wearer's location and offers an SOS button, two-way, hands-free voice communication and a fall detector.
Should calls come, Linkline+ is set up to respond round the clock, with dedicated officers highly experienced at dealing with people in crisis, providing reassurance and able to liaise with other services where needed.
OwnFone and Footprint are both the inspiration of London-based manufacturer OwnFone. Sales director Sarah Watts said: "OwnFone and Footprint are specialist devices designed for independent-living vulnerable people. OwnFone is a complete, lightweight mobile phone on which we can fully customise the display and functions, and can pre-programme numbers to call for Linkline+ users. Footprint brings the benefits of GPS tracking and two-way communications to a very small, handy, one-button device.
"A highly unusual benefit of both devices, in addition to their design, is that they operate
independently of any single UK mobile network and can freely roam between networks in search of the strongest signal, thus avoiding typical mobile network issues and giving the users peace of mind."
Linkline+ offers its Telecare packs free of charge to Hounslow residents for the first six weeks following discharge. After initial trials, 83% of users valued the service enough to subscribe as direct clients. Meanwhile, a three-month trial of a similar service in the West Midlands town of Dudley found a reduction in the number of people being readmitted to hospital, which was not only good news for the Telecare users but represented a saving to the NHS of £600 per averted re-admission.
Sarah Watts concluded: "Our ability to provide an instantly available, emergency contact system to patients on discharge can make a tangible difference to their lives and to the freeing up of hospital beds, which is why we're in talks with local authorities and care providers about extending the service to many other regions of the country."
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** Last year it was reported that, in just one year, 2.7m days' worth of hospital beds were filled by patients waiting for help to live at home, or for places in care homes. This seriously compromised new admissions and cost the NHS £820m. Discharge delays for older patients are also bad for their health and may increase the care they need after leaving hospital. (See The House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts: Discharging older people from acute hospitals - Twelfth Report of Session 2016-17 - July 2016.)
Hounslow case study
Staff of Hounslow Linkline+ and Middlesex Hospital may be available for more in-depth case study interviews about the service and its effect. Please contact Sarah Watts (see below) to explore arrangements.
Founded in 2013, OwnFone Ltd and its customer service team are based in Islington, north London. It designs and manufactures a range of easy to use, customisable mobile devices to the assistive technology sector. Users include independent-living vulnerable people, such as those with dementia, strokes and other conditions, adults in care and lone field workers.
OwnFone is a member of both the BHTA (British Healthcare Trades Association) and TSA (Telecare Services Association) and a signatory to the BHTA Code of Practice. OwnFone was highly commended in the Independent Living Design category at The BHTA Awards in December 2015.
For further information please contact
Sarah Watts, sales director
Tel: 07572 832955
Published for OwnFone Ltd by Press Dispensary
+ 44 1273 741410