How digital telecare was critical during Covid

North Kestevan District Council covers a large, diverse, rural area across Lincolnshire. Their telecare services support 6,000 older and vulnerable residents across the district. This became more challenging when the pandemic hit and a telecare business continuity plan was activated. In particular, their digital switchover plan and relationship with Doro was crucial as the pandemic kickstarted the IP transition sooner than either party had anticipated.

Here Fiona Jones, Housing Wellbeing Strategy Manager, explains what happened:

Delivering a service to the vulnerable becomes a lot more challenging in a pandemic. A telecare business continuity plan was activated, and we moved to a basic responsive service. The plans covered many natural and man-made disasters, but it was our telecare digital switchover plan that came to the fore.

We had already selected Doro as our IP partner. Their equipment is tried and tested across Europe, and they are further along the digital road than many competitors. Unlike other units a full selection of the same peripherals can be added to both their analogue and digital units. We didn’t anticipate installing them quite so soon, but neither did Doro.

However, we quickly implemented doorstep deliveries for customers who were alone in lockdown. Due to the simplicity of programming and installation, we have also delivered them to trusted neighbours and family members. A test call is activated before we leave, so the customer knows what to expect when their equipment is activated.

The IP units can be fully programmed, with any peripherals, via the online Doro i-care portal. None of us are computer whizzes, so the site had to be simple to use. And it is. We had also divided the stock between the staff making appointments. Fortunately, the equipment is compact and appropriately packaged, or we would all be tripping over boxes in our homes. Training sessions on Teams, daily contact and scheduled weekly meetings have allowed us to share knowledge and experience, and ensure our staff are confident to work in the current climate.

Preparation was the key. All appointments are made with customers safety as the main priority. Questions about infection, symptoms, self-isolation and shielding are asked before an appointment is made and repeated on the day of the visit (if it is not the same day).

With our travel permissions to hand, Doro units are cleaned, activated, bagged and placed on the doorstep of the customer’s home. We ring the bell and step back. Sometimes people have been unable to pick up the unit and carry it indoors due to walking aids. We will enter, as a last resort, following the latest HSE and government guidance, and have retained the two-metre social distancing requirement. Customers just need to plug the main unit into a socket and switch the socket on. Job done. Most cannot believe how easy it is.

North Kesteven engineer
Phil, NKDC Telecare Team

We have shouted advice through open windows, herded dogs who have escaped out of front doors, sorted leads from sockets that look like spaghetti, chatted to a lot of lonely people and declined a lot of tea. We quickly realised that seeing a friendly face was important, even if it was just a pair of eyes! Everyone was given a little extra time to improve their day. We also make referrals into the Wellbeing Lincs visiting (temporarily telephoning) support service, for people needing just a bit more help to remain independent and happy at home.

Without the IP leap, with the support of the monitoring centre and Doro, we would have had no choice but to enter people’s homes, increasing the risk for both our staff and our customers. And many customers who were shielding were too anxious to even consider this.

We adapted with the support of Doro, Lincare Monitoring Centre and our customers. We know we provide a valuable service, giving piece of mind to customers and their family and friends. And we are still delivering a high-quality service that meets the needs of our local communities.