CECOPS SSW assistive tech services concerns

Brian Donnelly, CEO of CECOPS, and Sarah Clayton, CEO of Simple Stuff Works, have warned of potential problems that could arise as a result of important services stopping during the coronavirus pandemic.

In a recent letter to all the heads of all NHS Trusts, Clinical Commissioning Groups and Councils, NHS England and NHS Improvement proposed prioritisation measures within community health services as the health and social care sector moves to cope with the outbreak.

Released on the 19th March and updated on the 2nd April, the letter advises providers of community services on how they can free up resources which can be redeployed to support the COVID-19 preparedness and response.

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According to the letter, supporting home discharge of patients from acute & community beds and ensure patients cared for at home receive urgent care when they need it is one of the key priorities, alongside using digital tech to provide support to patients.

The letter also emphasises the need to prioritise support for high-risk individuals advised to self-isolate for 12 weeks.

Detailing the various services provided in the community, the letter informs commissioners of steps they should do to release resources, including recommending that work deemed medium and lower priority relating to ‘wheelchairs, orthotics and prosthetics and equipment’ services for children and young people should be stopped.

Providing more details, the letter notes that the use of private providers/shops should also be considered for the supply of vital equipment.

Largely across the mobility retail sector however, many private stores are temporarily closed in response to the government’s lockdown measures, increasing the likeliness that service users will struggle to obtain items needed.

Discussing the NHS guidance, CECOPS Chief Executive Brian Donnelly, warned of the knock-on impact such measures could have on some of the most vulnerable in society.

The independent, user-led standards and accreditation body for assistive technology services, CECOPS works with over 200 services across the UK to promote and maintain high standards of provision and best practice through its code of practice.

He told AT Today: “This is alarming; it goes completely in the face of the Prevention agenda. What about safeguarding with regards to neglect? This could apply to 2-4 million people in the UK.

“There is a fine line between Medium Risk and High Risk. Interventions are made to prevent conditions worsening and escalating to admissions etc. What about Falls prevention, pressure, posture? There needs to be a clear definition of what medium and low risk really means.”

The same guidance is also outlined for assistive technologies services for adults and older people, encouraging CCGs to also consider linking with acute vascular services in regards to amputation and supporting discharge.

“Service users could be reaping the results of this long after COVID-19,” added Brian.

Having heard Brian’s concerns, Sarah Clayton, CEO of Simple Stuff Works, added: “We support people with complex learning disabilities, a group who already experience chronic health inequality. We urgently need to find alternative ways to support efficient, effective equipment provision if we are not to see a devastating deterioration in people’s health during this time.

“The vulnerable nature of many of the individuals we support means that as they will currently be shielding, they will not be able to access anything like traditional service models for some time – our fear is that their condition will deteriorate and we will see secondary complications and deaths as a result.”

On the 29th April 2020 at 1.30pm to 3pm, CECOPS is hosting a webinar discussing how COVID-19 is affecting Wheelchair Provision with leading experts in the field – register in advance for the webinar here.

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