Falkirk Council has become the ‘first’ local authority in Scotland to go live with a fully digital telecare service – four years before a national deadline that will see traditional analogue services switched off.

Telecare is a remote care and support service for elderly or disabled people which provides users with personal and home alarms that alert a control centre when they are in difficulty so help can be sent

The Mobile Emergency Care Service (MECS), which currently helps 4,000 vulnerable people live independently at home and is delivered alongside the Falkirk Health and Social Care Partnership, has traditionally relied on analogue phones lines to operate.

It is now ‘safeguarded’ having been digitally enabled end-to-end, four years before telecommunication providers switch off all analogue lines in the UK in 2025.

The ‘ground-breaking’ progress has been recognised by the Digital Telecare for Scottish Local Government Programme with a Gold Level 1 Digital Telecare Implementation Award.

The service has been praised for trialling the digital service with a group of low-risk clients and migrating 20 per cent 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.”

Falkirk Council launched its ‘analogue to digital telecare’ project after learning that telecommunication providers would switch off all analogue phones lines by 2025. It is one of 23 Council of the Future projects that aim to modernise and improve services.

By the end of March last year, the project team, led by Waddell 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 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.

Whitelaw 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.”

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

The ‘platinum’ peak award will be achieved when the digital telecare solution has been delivered to a minimum 80% of service users for at least nine months.