WHEN Margaret Handley’s friend Dorothy was taken ill, she expected a lengthy wait before help arrived
Although Margaret was confident Tameside Council’s community response team would react swiftly to the emergency call made using her alarm pendant, past experience told her it might be hours before a doctor got to the Ashton sheltered housing complex where she lives.
Fortunately, times have changed. New technology meant Dorothy was able to get the necessary help very quickly.
Since April, Tameside’s mobile wardens have been issued with iPads. These allow them to use Skype to get one-to-one advice from Tameside Hospital’s digital health care centre. This means they are often able to deal with incidents without having to summon an ambulance or GP – helping to reduce pressure on vital services – and so it proved with Dorothy.
Margaret, who is 86, said: “I thought the new Skype service was brilliant. It was incredible how quickly Dorothy got the care she needed.
“With the old way of doing things we would have had to wait until they could get hold of the doctor, and that’s not always easy to do. Skype was also better than dialling 111. That’s because you can see people on Skype, it’s not just somebody talking on the end of a phone and the messages being relayed.
“I really was very impressed with the new service. I can’t praise it enough.”
Skype allows Tameside Council to save the National Health Service a significant amount of money. It costs around £500 to dispatch an ambulance, yet since the new scheme was introduced only five out of 15 call-outs required hospital attendance.
In these cases the hospital was fully briefed and medical records were accessed. That meant the patient could be fast-tracked with the necessary medical team waiting. There was no need to go through triage or endure a long stay in Accident and Emergency.
Currently, the iPads are being trialled from 8am to 6pm but the plan is to make them available 24 hours a day.
Additionally, the community response team has its own lifting equipment. Its use has meant that out of the 1,200 falls dealt with in the last six months, only 93 needed an ambulance. This 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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