A telecare monitoring service in Wales has described how its tech-enabled community support project reduced social isolation among people with care needs at home and prevented hundreds of ambulance callouts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Launched two weeks ahead of the first UK-wide lockdown, the Connect Project, run by Carmarthenshire County Council’s Delta Wellbeing team (pictured), has connected over 1,800 vulnerable people to preventative care, with more than 18,500 proactive wellbeing calls made between March and May 2020.
Inspired by a technique used in Spain, Delta Wellbeing is working with technology-enabled care specialist Tunstall Healthcare to identify potential health and wellbeing issues at the earliest opportunity and provide care and support where and when it is needed most.
Supporting technology includes video calling, lifeline emergency alarm systems, fall detectors, GPS tracking and 24/7 access to the appropriate community response service.
Running across Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire since its launch, the project has assessed the needs of over 1,800 people living in the community to develop a personalised support package, helping them to live independently at home.
It has supported more than 8,500 people shielding during national lockdown, ensuring they had access to food, virtual social contact and emergency assistance, and responded to 1,646 call outs, with fewer than 100 of these (6%) needing escalation to emergency services.
The Connect project also sent rapid response community teams to help 529 people who had a fall at home – with 97% of all calls attended to within 60 minutes. Without the service, they would have had to wait for an ambulance.
The service is easing pressure on the NHS by identifying patients who could stay in their own home. By working with clinicians, it can also speed up a patient’s discharge from hospital by ensuring that the right support package is in place, freeing up valuable bed spaces for acute cases and reducing the risk of hospital-acquired infection.
Cllr Jane Tremlett, Delta Wellbeing Governance Board Chair said: “People have become more isolated through the pandemic and have really benefitted from having a call from someone, just checking in to see how things are. This preventative, community-focused approach has been well received across the region – and helped to ease pressure on NHS and social care services at a critical time.”
The project has been supported by the Welsh Government’s Transformation Fund through the West Wales Care Partnership Board – bringing together Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire County Council’s, Hywel Dda University Health Board and representatives of the third and independent sectors.
The region has a high number of older people, with one in ten (10.3%) over the age of 75, versus the 8.9% Welsh national average.
Tremlett added: “This type of proactive tech-supported care has never been fully established at scale in the UK. The model of care that works so well in Spain, and specifically Barcelona, couldn’t be replicated here exactly as our health and social care systems are very different – so we learnt from their experience and invested time and research to adapt their proven approach so that it could work well for or our communities.”
Gavin Bashar, managing director for the UK & Ireland at Tunstall Healthcare, said: “The way technology is used to support health and social services is changing – it’s playing a much more preventative role, helping to avoid emergencies and supporting health and wellbeing. Global studies have found that this approach to technology-supported care can play a significant role in helping people to stay independent in their own homes for longer.”