WHEN people call 999, cost is the last thing on their mind. They want emergency help and they want it quickly.
Yet it actually costs around £500 to send out an ambulance. Multiply that figure against the 1,200 calls made to Tameside Council’s community response team over the last six months for elderly people who suffered a fall, and the result is a bill for £600,000.
Fortunately, through the Care Together programme, our new integrated health and social care system in Tameside and Glossop has provided an innovative remedy for this problem.
Since April, mobile wardens have been issued with iPads. Now, whenever an accident occurs, they are able to use Skype to consult a registered healthcare professionals at Tameside Hospital’s new digital health care centre.
In many cases the one-to-one advice allows incidents to be dealt with without the need for an ambulance or a GP - helping reduce pressures on these vital services. However, if a hospital visit is required, the patient can be fast-tracked with the necessary medical team waiting. There is no need to go through triage or a long stay in Accident and Emergency.
The Skype service also provides reassurance, and allows the person to stay in the comfort of their own home.
A warden explained: “I was called out to see a lady in Hattersley who was unable to walk because she hadn’t taken her pills.
“She was very agitated but as soon as she saw the nurse on Skype the anxiety visibly left her face. It was incredible to see.
“It made her feel so much better just to see and hear the nurse. She was reassured because she felt like she was being looked-after.”
Since the iPads came into use, only five of 15 call-outs have resulted in hospital attendance. Currently, the tablet computers are being trialled from 8am to 6pm but the plan is to make them available 24 hours a day.
In addition to this, the community response team has its own lifting equipment. Consequently, the 1,200 falls occurring in the last six months led to only 93 ambulance call-outs, which equates to a saving of around £500,000.
Sandra Whitehead, Tameside Council's assistant executive director for adult services, said: “We’re delighted to say the new digital healthcare system has been enthusiastically received not only by wardens and medical staff but also by residents, who are our most important consideration.
“Tameside is the only authority using digital healthcare in an integrated way, and the many benefits of our joined-up approach – including cost savings – are already plain to see.”
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