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Pictured: the new digital-ready MECS box.

Falkirk Council has become the first local authority in Scotland to go live with an end-to-end digital telecare service.

Working alongside Falkirk Health and Social Care Partnership, the Council has safeguarded its life and limb Mobile Emergency Care Service (MECS), which currently helps 4,000 vulnerable people live independently at home.

The service, which traditionally relied on analogue phone lines to operate, is now the first telecare service provided by a Scottish Council to be digitally enabled end to end, four years before telecommunication providers switch off all analogue lines in the UK.

The ground-breaking progress has now been recognised, with the Council and Partnership awarded the Gold Level 1 Digital Telecare Implementation Award by the Digital Telecare for Scottish Local Government Programme.

Digital achievement

The award acknowledges the service, which provides users with personal and home alarms that alert a control centre when they fall or are in difficulty so help can be sent, has:

  • been tested with a group of low-risk clients
  • migrated 20% of users to the fully digital service

Martyn Wallace, Chief Digital Officer for the Digital Office for Scottish Local Government and the Senior Responsible Officer of Digital Telecare in Scotland, said:

"Receiving the award is a significant achievement and robustly demonstrates the overall functionality and effectiveness of Falkirk Council and Falkirk Health and Social Care Partnership's digital telecare solution. This enables them to confidently progress further on their journey and continue to share their learnings with other telecare service providers as leaders in the field."

Pauline Waddell, Team Manager, MECS said:

“Becoming the first Council in Scotland to not only go live with an end-to-end digital telecare offering but also achieve recognition for it, is testament to the hard work undertaken to safeguard the critical service by all those involved in the project. It is only through their innovative thinking, collaborative working and quick decision making that the digital transformation of this service has got to this stage.”

Digital ambition

Knowing that telecommunication providers would switch off all analogue phones lines by 2025 led the Council to launch its Analogue to Digital Telecare project, one of 23 Council of the Future projects that aim to modernise and improve services and help deliver on its priorities – Communities, Enterprise, and Innovation.

By end of March last year, the project team, led by Pauline and Ian Whitelaw, the former Team Leader for the Contact Centre through which MECS operates, had replaced 4,000 analogue MECS alarm systems in people’s homes with pre-programmed digital-ready ones.

They’d also worked with Chubb Systems to develop and install a digital Alarm Receiving Centre, which provides immediate and secure information 24/7 to call handlers when a MECS personal alarm or sensor in a home is activated.

Now the team is working to transfer the remaining 3,200 MECS service users to the fully digital service by end 2021.

Ian, Analogue to Digital Telecare Project Manager, said:

“Our clients should feel confident that the service they rely on to live independently at home is not only cutting edge, but also more secure and more reliable than ever before. Our focus now is to build on our digital ambitions, offering new choices and services that will help them lead independent lives for as long as possible.”

Digital future

The Council and Partnership will now work towards the Gold Level 2 Implementation Award which requires user acceptance testing with a representative group of high-risk users, migration with this group and the solution rolled out to at least 40% of service users.

Once this has been achieved, the 'Platinum' peak award will be on the horizon which requires the digital telecare solution to be delivered to a minimum 80% of service users for at least nine months.

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