KCC assistive technology image

Kent County Council (KCC) has commissioned assistive technology care provider Alcove to roll out digital support packages to around 2,000 elderly and vulnerable residents.

Now, the Kent residents will benefit from a unique videophone system, which will enable digitally disadvantaged elderly residents and those with a learning disability to receive virtual care and health consultations, as well as video contact with friends and family while minimising the coronavirus infection risk to other residents and care staff.

The £1.5 million contract is one of England’s largest programmes to support vulnerable adults during the COVID-19 crisis.

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The technology, in the form of a “one touch” secure tablet-type device, is being delivered and set up remotely by Alcove and health and care transformation consultancy Rethink Partners.

It enables video-calling to an individual’s support network, which allows KCC support staff to monitor care needs, ensure that clients are safe, and enables residents to conduct online activities such as ordering essential supplies and stay video connected with their loved ones.

Clair Bell, Kent County Council’s Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care & Public Health, said: “This assistive technology will give some of our most vulnerable residents greater independence and help care staff to support them at this very challenging time.

“The video phone is delivered direct to the person’s home, ready to go, straight out of the box. It enables carers to monitor care needs and check on the safety and wellbeing of their clients, who themselves are able to utilise the equipment for a variety of online activities such as ordering shopping and prescriptions, as well as connecting with their family and friends by video call.

“The system is proving to be particularly effective during the Covid-19 pandemic, reducing the need for face-to-face contact and limiting hands-on care to just essential tasks.

“I am delighted that KCC is investing in this technology which will bring many benefits to both the care workforce and those we support to live independently at home.”

KCC was already reviewing its long-term assistive technology strategy before the nationwide pandemic in anticipation of contracts ending in 2021 and the national digital switchover planning.

However, the coronavirus outbreak kickstarted the council’s assistive technology strategy and the rapid deployment of care technology was an urgent response to the pandemic. The council says that this urgent deployment of assistive technology will influence its longer-term planning.

Kent has seen more than 7,600 confirmed cases of COVID-19, making it one of the hardest-hit communities in the South East.

Founder and CEO of Alcove Hellen Bowey commented: “Local authorities across the country have had to navigate an unprecedented demand for services and juggle this with fewer support staff. Restrictions on movement and a reduction in care workers have left the most vulnerable people in our communities scared, alone and digitally isolated.

“With lockdown set to continue for many of the older people in our communities, it’s important that providers take steps to ensure their needs continue to be met.

“Not only does the implementation of this technology ensure that Kent county is well placed to mitigate the risk of COVID-19, it also ensures that local care provision is future proofed for the national digital switchover programme which comes into effect in 2023.

“Current telecare technologies in this sector lack video, are outdated, send calls to only one number and are prone to failing due to the digital switchover – Alcove’s Integrated Caretech Digital Ecosystem connects carers and the cared-for seamlessly with video and Alexa, and uses data to monitor behaviour and create life changing outcomes.”

A similar assistive technology initiative was deployed by NHS North Yorkshire Clinical Commissioning Group, which saw the CCG invest in more than 200 Samsung tablet devices for care homes across North Yorkshire.

This enabled residents across North Yorkshire to access virtual appointments with GPs and other clinical staff to ensure their healthcare needs were met while reducing face-to-face contact and thus preventing transmission of COVID-19.

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