Select Committee on Science and Technology Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary evidence by Tunstall Group Ltd


  1.  Following the oral evidence given by Steve Sadler, Technical Director, Tunstall Group, at the sub-committee meeting on 8 March 2005, this supplementary submission is being sent at the suggestion of the sub-committee to emphasise two key points referred to in the meeting which we feel are worthy of further clarification. The two points concerned relate to:

    —  New evidence from the West Lothian Council telecare project.

    —  The need to ensure that new funding allocated to telecare in the 2004 Comprehensive Spending Review (£80 million over two years commencing April 2006) is spent as intended, so as to generate further evidence of the efficiency and effectiveness of telecare and to encourage mainstream deployment.


  2.  During his oral evidence Steve Sadler referred to the West Lothian Council Home Safety Service, where telecare equipment has been installed in 1,700 homes with residents aged 60 or over. This is to be further increased to 4,000 homes, with the long-term target to install similar equipment in all 10,000 homes in West Lothian with residents aged 60 or over. An academic audit study identified that over 3,000 hospital bed nights per annum were avoided through the use of this service at the point where there were 1,200 service users.

  3.  The cost of this West Lothian Home Safety Service is of the order of £250 per annum including telecare equipment, monitoring and response. Where home care services are also required (average 10 hours per week) then costs of £7,000 pa are typical. These care models compare favourably with the cost of residential care of £22,000 pa, whilst delivering choice and independence. There is preliminary evidence from West Lothian Council that up to 10 per cent of the clients using the Home Safety package would otherwise have entered residential care.

  4.  The West Lothian project is being independently evaluated by the University of Stirling. Their most recent report dated February 2005 concludes that the telecare technology has been well received by service users and informal carers. The findings suggest that independence and choice for older people are clearly supported.


  5.  In the 2004 Comprehensive Spending Review the Chancellor announced new funding for telecare totalling £80 million over the two years commencing April 2006 to "keep up to 160,000 older people healthy, safe and independent in their own homes". This will be split as to £30 million in 2006-07 and £50 million in 2007-08, and is to be distributed to the 150 Councils with Social Services Responsibilities in England. The money is intended to be spent on telecare but is not ringfenced as such.

  6.  There must be a possibility therefore that, given the pressures on local authorities, the badged funding may not be spent as intended but diverted into other priorities. It is to be hoped therefore that the Government will do everything possible, through audit processes and other means, to ensure that the new funding is invested in the incremental provision of telecare as clearly intended by the Chancellor's statement. In this way further hard evidence can be collected about the efficacy and value for money of telecare to encourage mainstream deployment by Social Services and Primary Care Trusts. The aim must be for telecare to become a mainstream solution not reliant on pump priming funds.


  7.  Central Government should issue strong direction to Councils with Social Services Responsibilities in England to ensure that the new money allocated for telecare in the 2004 Comprehensive Spending Review should be spent as intended and not diverted by local authorities into other priorities.

March 2005

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