Council telecare providers must urgently prepare for analogue to digital shift, white paper warns

A white paper warning of the disruption facing 1.7m people who rely on telecare as UK telecoms providers shift from analogue to digital infrastructure, has been launched by TSA, the national body for technology enabled care (TEC) services.

By 2025, all analogue telephone services in the UK will be switched off and replaced by digital connections using internet protocol (IP) technology. Systems relying on ‘voice-band data’, such as telecare will be affected.

Yet action amongst local authority telecare service providers is slow with no large-scale upgrade programme in place. TSA’s white paper also warns that if councils simply replicate analogue telecare in the digital world they would miss the chance to devise new TEC services that are enhanced by digital. New technologies offer opportunities for more informed, predictive and integrated care.

Connecting People, Improving Lives: A Digital Future for TEC? explains that 1.7 million people in the UK rely on telecare such as pendant alarms and falls detectors, many of which connect to monitoring centres via phone lines. If local authorities don’t upgrade from analogue to digital by 2025 then many service users could lose the technology that keeps them connected and safe, putting major pressure on health and social care services. TSA estimates that upgrades across the TEC sector could cost between £150 – £300m.

The white paper calls on council commissioners and service providers, regulators and government to grasp the scale of this challenge but also the transformative opportunities it presents.

But there are as many challenges as there are opportunities. The publication identifies a range of potential problems around connectivity and interoperability, quality standards and regulation, information security, data storage and funding shortfalls.

TSA President and former Care Minister, Rt Hon Prof Paul Burstow, said: “This report is a call to action to the TEC sector to get ready for the shift and recognise the opportunity it represents. A simple, digital copy of the old analogue business model would miss the aspirations of a public who value and expect intuitive, easy to understand services and products in every other part of their lives and want it in TECs too.”

Alyson Scurfield, Chief Executive of TSA, said: “The paramount concern of TSA is that the reliability and safety of telecare and social alarm services is not compromised: that lives are not put at risk. There is an urgent need for government, regulators, telecoms and the TEC sector to agree and mobilise a plan to manage the transition and realise the full potential of digital connectivity.”

TSA’s White Paper outlines six key actions:

  • Agree a roadmap for digital migration of TEC
  • Amend best practice and regulation to enable exploitation of the technology
  • Embrace new commercial models that are driven by changing consumer expectations and emerging technologies
  • Inject resource and financial support for the initial transition from analogue TEC to digital
    Establish strong national leadership
  • Drive collaboration and alignment, driven by clear and accurate communication

 The whitepaper can be downloaded here.

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