Last year, the council dealt with significant financial challenges after its available budget was cut by 25%, taking into account the loss of grant funding. This is at a time when the population of people living with a long-term condition in the area is expected to increase by 44% by 2026 and on average, there are over 1,100 patients who have 4 or more emergency admissions to hospitals per year. In addition, between 2008 and 2028, the number of over 85s will increase by 43%, so the Council and Health Service needed a solution that could manage rising demand and ensure a high standard of care for its local citizens.
The joint service, which has been developed by the council and NHS Blackburn with Darwen Care Trust Plus, has already saved the council £2.2 through reablement and telecare, exceeding its original savings target of £1.9m. It has also reduced long term residential care admissions by 18% across the borough in one year.
The number of people being supported by telehealthcare has risen from 60 to 1000 since the introduction of mainstreamed services 2 years ago. The council is extending the provision across the Borough to create a universally accessible service that integrates with community reablement and rapid response services, improving quality of life and maximising independence for users with long-term conditions. The new service will, over the next few years, involve the provision of over 1800 telehealthcare packages to residents requiring social care support or help with health conditions.
Councillor Mohammed Khan, Executive Member for Adult Social Care at Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council said: "Despite facing massive challenges to adult social care funding, we have been able to deliver an improved service for our residents. Mainstreaming the service has dramatically improved the quality of life for service users, and has also created real financial savings by avoiding unnecessary admissions to more costly forms of care. Our new telehealthcare service will help us remain fit for purpose over the next 4 years through and integrated service that provides a seamless experience for the user and allows us to increase the scale of delivery even further.
"As a partner, Tunstall has proven that it is not only about the equipment, but about how you implement a service from the ground up and understand what needs to be done in order to change the culture of care - hearts and minds as well as process. Our decision to invest in telehealthcare jointly with NHS Blackburn underlines our ongoing commitment to delivering the best possible care services to our residents and our willingness to embrace new technologies in order to achieve this.
"For one elderly resident the telehealthcare service has enabled her to remain living safely in her own home, despite being very frail and suffering from epilepsy. She has been provided with a telecare service, which allows her to press a button when she feels a seizure is about to start or when she feels faint. She also benefits from a Fall Detector, which in the event of a fall or blackout is set off automatically. With the support of telehealthcare, she now has the quality of care that is required and has gained greater independence."
David Cockayne, Health and Social Care Director at Tunstall said: "Blackburn with Darwen's mainstreamed telehealthcare service has delivered significant cost savings and enhanced reablement for people across the Borough. Telehealthcare provides vital support to residents with a range of care needs, and we are proud to be partnering with the Council and local NHS to deliver a flexible, preventative service that encourages independent living."
Blackburn with Darwen is the 17th most deprived area in England and Wales, with poor housing, large scale health inequalities and low incomes. With the highest rates of admission to residential care in the North West, the council conducted an evaluation of its services using 114 telecare service users, of whom 34 received no other services, to identify the benefits of deployment of a mainstreamed telehealthcare service, compared with the anticipated care outcomes had telecare not been provided.
Dr Chris Clayton, chair of the Blackburn with Darwen Clinical Commissioning Group which is taking over buying responsibilities of health care from NHS Blackburn with Darwen Care Trust Plus, said: "We believe Telehealth care can have a vital role in patient care and as a clinician, I am pleased the Council and NHS have made a joint investment to provide an integrated service to the people of Blackburn with Darwen.
"It's still early days in terms of using this type of technology and of course we need to evaluate how effective it is in the long term. If it is as successful as we believe it will be, then the CCG would wish to make a long term investment in this area."
The council plans to extend telecare to people who sit outside of its current eligibility criteria and is currently considering how to do this given the obvious preventive benefits to a broad range of people over and above those with eligible social care needs. The new scheme will promote safe and independent living by bringing support for service users directly into their homes to improve their quality of life.
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Tunstall Healthcare Group is the market leading provider of telehealthcare solutions, with over 2.5 million users globally. Tunstall's solutions support older people and those with long-term needs, helping them to live independently by effectively managing their health and well-being. Its solutions have been proven effective in the world's largest telehealthcare trial. Tunstall provides technology, expertise and advice to millions of people enabling them to lead independent more fulfilling lives.