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LGA - Gadgetry saving millions on care for the elderly

High-tech gadgetry is saving millions of pounds on care for the elderly while helping them stay in the homes they love.
As local government leads the way in dealing with the country’s ageing population, pioneering research from one council shows modern technology could save its health system £7.5 million a year. If expanded across England and Wales this would represent savings of £270 million, and extra years of priceless independence and dignity for users.
After several years piloting new technologies, town halls are now rolling out schemes in full and reaping huge savings - from the electronic pill dispenser which saves thousands of pounds a year to the personal satellite locator which reduces day care costs by £250 a week.
The latest developments in telehealth and telecare are being discussed at this year’s National Children and Adult Services Conference, organised by the Local Government Association and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services.
Cllr David Rogers, Chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “Investing in technology like this has been proven to reduce the need for hospital admission, GP referral, home help, day care and residential care. This saves taxpayers’ money in the long term at a time when the demand for adult care is rising and funding is falling.
“But it’s not just about saving cash, telecare and telehealth gives older people and those living with long-term conditions years more of independence. It boosts their confidence and self-respect, helps them remain healthy and happy and keeps them at the heart of the communities they love. It’s simply not possible to put a value on that.
“Later life should be as fulfilling, healthy and as active as a person wants it to be. New technology helps deliver round-the-clock support to users, allowing them to manage their own health budgets, ensuring timely and preventative care, and peace of mind for them and their loved ones.
“It also makes time with friends and loved ones quality time. Rather than carers having to fret about pills or check every window is locked each time they visit, they can now relax and chat like they used to, knowing numerous mundane tasks have been taken care of.”
Kent County Council’s two-year pilot was the largest in Europe and focused on savings related to heart and lung conditions and diabetes. Working alongside health trusts in the county, it found vast savings were made through reduced hospital admissions, accident and emergency, bed days of care, home visits and GP contact. When the reduced costs were expanded across all areas of health, it estimated an annual saving of £7.5 million.
Examples of current telecare systems include:

  • Personal satellite locators where carers can monitor the location of someone with dementia. This allows people who are often fit in body to continue going for much-loved walks without fear of being lost.
  • Location buzzers which go off if you stray too far from your carer.
  • Door monitors to remind you to take keys before leaving the house.
  • Lifestyle monitoring system where carers can monitor a person’s activities via the internet and view a chart of their activity in each room.
  • Sensors to detect floods, fire, gas leaks, falls, intruders, property exit and bed/chair occupancy, all connected to relatives or central monitoring centres.
  • Special plugs which stop flooding if taps are left on.
  • Personal injury alarms – both activated by the wearer, or self activating following an accident.
  • Automatic pill dispenser which make tablets available on a timer and prompts users to take them.
  • Simple mobile phones with only seven buttons which have pictures on them and can be worn on the wrist.

Cllr Rogers added:
“Councils have been the trailblazers with telecare and telehealth and the whole of society is now reaping the benefits. But this is only part of the solution. Also essential if we’re to manage our ageing population is improved public health, leisure and transport schemes, and more adaptable housing. And what will never happen is technology being seen as a replacement for human contact, nothing is more vital to keep older people independent and happy.”

Case studies: 

Staffordshire County Council offers telecare services to more than 1,000 residents. It found £100 pill dispensers coupled with the £20-per-month pharmacy management fees saved £19.50 for every pound spent because of reduced hospital admissions, GP and nurse time, medication efficiency and home care. Its use of personal locators has delayed admission to long-term care and supported increased use of community facilities. They cost £300 each and then £5 a week to monitor, compared to day care costs of £50 a day.
Staffordshire County Council offers telecare services to more than 1,000 residents and estimates they save the NHS £3,000 per user, as well reducing the demand on its own adult social care services. It found £100 pill dispensers coupled with the £20-per-month prescription fees saved £19.50 for every pound spent because of reduced hospital admissions, GP and nurse time, medication efficiency and home helps. Its Buddy System of personal locators costs £300 each and then £5 a day to monitor. It freed residents from day care costs of £50.
North Yorkshire County Council provides telecare services to 12,000 users. In its first year, the council calculates it has saved more than £1m that would otherwise have been spent on domiciliary or residential care.
Blackpool Council’s Vitaline service is one the country’s most advanced 24-hour telehealth monitoring and response centres and provides care, reassurance and protection to thousands of residents. Specialist equipment has been installed in homes to monitor vital signs such as blood pressure levels, weight, oxygen saturation and blood sugar monitoring. The initial pilot saw a 75 per cent reduction in hospital admissions, 43 per cent reduction in Community Matron visits and a 85 per cent reduction in GP contacts.
Brighton and Hove City Council provides telecare services to 5,000 users and receives about 500 alarm calls per day. These include bed and chair occupancy detectors, and door and flood sensors.

Stockton Council’s community alarm service, Care Call, provides 24-hour support at the touch of a button, together with the services of mobile officers to more than 6,000 residents.  Latest statistics show the control centre answers 96 per cent of calls within 30 seconds and 98 per cent within 60 seconds.  For 97 per cent of these calls, the Council has an officer on site within 30 minutes. It also have 376 Telecare users.  Last year, sensors resulted in 24,904 calls and officers found 211 clients on the floor, 54 outside their property at ‘at risk’ times, 19 cases where gas was left on.


Author: LGA Media Office
Contact: LGA Media Office, Tel: 020 7664 3333 


Telehealth is the term given to managing a person’s health between appointments using the likes of email, video calls and remote monitors and scanners. Telecare is the term given to technology which helps older and physically less able people remain in their own home.
Click here to see the full report from Kent County Council’s pilot scheme.

The National Children and Adult Service Conference takes place at Manchester Central from November 3 to 5. For information visit
By 2026, the number of over 65s will have risen from 8 million to 12.5 million, the number of 85s will have doubled to 2 million, and the number of over 100s quadrupled to 40,000.
Life expectancy is extending, but quality of later life is declining with people living longer with debilitating conditions like dementia, arthritis and the effects of stroke.
Councils in England spent £14.4 billion on adult social care in 2008/09. This could rise to £20 billion by 2015.
People can buy telecare products privately, through personal budgets or councils may supply them based on eligibility criteria.  

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