A major four-year project to upgrade equipment providing emergency telecare alarms and support to people in Leeds has now been completed, and the service is looking to expand the number of residents it supports.

Leeds Tele Care Services run by Leeds City Council has invested £1.6 million in successfully upgrading all its equipment from analogue to digital systems in a project that began in September 2019.

The upgrade was needed to improve the functionality of the network and to ensure services can continue when the analogue telephone services in the UK are switched off by 2025, with traditional phone lines and telecommunications infrastructure being replaced by digital networks using internet protocols (IP).

Telecare is the continuous, automatic, and remote monitoring of real-time emergencies and lifestyle changes over time in order to support vulnerable people living independently, says Leeds City Council. Telecare is a development of the community alarm equipment that Leeds has provided for older and disabled people since 1986 with the first-generation Care Ring Service.

Telecare sensors are placed around the home on ceilings, doors, and walls or may be worn by the user in the form of a pendant. Sensors include smoke detectors, flood detectors, fall sensors, and medication dispenser alerts to ensure residents safety in their homes.

If a sensor activates in an individual’s home an alert is automatically raised to the council’s 24-hour Tele Care Alarm Receiving Centre, which will make contact with the service user to check on their safety.

The council says often practical advice and reassurance is all that is required, but, on some occasions, a personal visit or physical help may be needed. On these occasions, the response centre staff will arrange the appropriate support by contacting a family member, providing a visit by the Tele Care mobile response service, or, if necessary, contacting an emergency service.

The response centre holds relevant personal information about the service user and can identify which sensor in the home has activated to ensure the appropriate responses are arranged promptly.

More than 5,200 items of equipment have been upgraded to digital as part of the infrastructure update, with sensors now operating on a standalone basis using SIM technology and not directly connected to or impacted by any other connectivity in the home, such as a broadband or Wi-Fi signal.

All aspects of the Alarm Receiving Centre’s infrastructure have also been upgraded to ensure continuity of service and the fastest and most effective response times possible.

Leeds Tele Care Services currently support nearly 10,000 people in the city, with 6,227 of those directly linked to the Alarm Receiving Centre and a further 3,343 having equipment that alerts a carer or member of the family living in the same property as the service user.

In 2022/23 there were 537,451 alerts taken by the Alarm Receiving Centre, resulting in 1,256 ambulance calls, 833 calls to the fire service to attend, and 289 police visits. The team’s mobile response service also helped in 3,236 cases while 78,557 phone calls were made to reassure the service user who had triggered the alarm.

Leeds Tele Care Services also supports Yorkshire Ambulance Service by responding to around 75 non-injury falls per month, keeping ambulances free to be able to respond to other emergencies in the city.

Leeds City Council Executive Member for Adult Social Care, Public Health and Active Lifestyles Councillor Salma Arif said: “Leeds Tele Care Services provides a vital role in the city helping to support and keep safe some of the most vulnerable members of our communities.

“It is very pleasing that this essential upgrade of the equipment and infrastructure has been completed well ahead of time, and the service is now stronger and more effective then ever moving into the future.

“We look forward to seeing the service continue to grow, as part of our commitment to Leeds being a compassionate and age-friendly city supporting people to live independently at home or in a place of their choice.”

Leeds Tele Care Services is looking to expand the number of Leeds residents it supports. Residents can find out more about the support on offer email TelecareReferrals@leeds.gov.uk or call the team on 0113 378 2991.

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