Digital switchover is HERE – this is what you need to do

Yet to get a grip on switchover? It’s time to tool up, says Clare Morris

When your in-tray is overflowing, there’s nothing quite so dangerous as a very long deadline. The digital switchover of analogue phone lines has been on the horizon for years, the distant date of 2025 lulling many of us into a misplaced sense of security. Well here’s the kicker: that three-year-away destination is actually the end date for switch over. Switchover is happening now; the window of opportunity to safeguard your telecare services is closing.

But don’t panic. Yes, we know switchover will affect significantly existing legacy analogue telecare services. Yes, functionality is already being affected in some areas. But there’s still time to safeguard existing services and future-proof your model with some transformative new technology.

Where to start

Together with councils and the LGA we’ve created a clear and concise resource for commissioners of telecare in councils to guide you through your next steps. The good news is that despite the increased costs incurred by switchover (both initial and ongoing), there are real opportunities to transform your services, improving your users’ experience and reducing care costs in the long term.

The LGA Digital Switchover Commissioners’ Toolkit lays out exactly what’s changing and what it means for your current care model. The tool walks you through planning (including a readiness assessment tool), the logistics of switchover and how best to liberate the best value from digital transformation. Whether you’re simply looking to switch your current provision to a similar digital model or want to grasp the opportunity for a leap in functionality, insights and value, this resource will support and signpost you along the way.

The process

The disruption to your legacy telecare provision may sound daunting, but councils already on this journey are discovering huge benefits. Take Gateshead, where an in-house monitoring and response centre (ARC) was using traditional telecare infrastructure to monitor around 3,000 alarms in people’s homes. With analogue devices in Gateshead routinely renewed on a five-year cycle, in 2018 the council decided to link a five-year digital switchover plan onto its existing programme. Having set aside £250k of extra capital funding to deliver the upgrades (this included group homes, community alarms and wider housing management and safety tech such as fire alarms), Gateshead is part way through renewing community alarms – having left these until the later stages of the programme. At its ARC a focus on increasing workflow and data capability is allowing a more efficient service; Gateshead is starting to use improved insight about service users’ behaviours to deliver a more intuitive approach to care.

Concerns about the impact of the switchover are reasonable, and councils that are already well into the process have learned valuable lessons about the challenges involved. From hidden costs and who covers them, to procurement complexities and even storm resilience, experienced councils have plenty of learnings to share. You can find some key takeaways here.

Get started today

Change isn’t easy, but digital switchover is upon us, and with transition flying slightly under the radar nationally it’s best to get ahead of the curve with your local plans. The potential risks of non-compliance for councils are real; planning ahead is the only way to avoid anxiety and risk for the most vulnerable households and residents.

Making sure they are safe, secure and confident in the technology that supports their independence is something we can all get behind. Download the LGA Digital Switchover Commissioners’ Toolkit today, and you’re one step closer to securing better outcomes for local people.

About Clare Morris
Clare Morris is a former NHS leader and co-founder of Rethink Partners, working with health and care organisations to visualise and implement change for good.
clare@rethinkpartners.co.uk

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