A significant four-year project aimed at upgrading equipment for providing emergency telecare alarms and support to residents in Leeds has been successfully completed.

Leeds Tele Care Services, managed by Leeds City Council, invested £1.6 million in the successful transition of all its equipment from analogue to digital systems. This project commenced in September 2019.

The upgrade was necessary to enhance the functionality of the network and ensure that services can continue beyond 2025 when the analogue telephone services in the UK are set to be phased out. Traditional phone lines and telecommunications infrastructure will be replaced by digital networks employing Internet protocols (IP).

Telecare involves the continuous, automatic, and remote monitoring of real-time emergencies and lifestyle changes over time to aid vulnerable individuals in living independently. It is an evolution of the community alarm equipment that Leeds has been providing for older and disabled residents since 1986 through the initial ‘Care Ring’ Service.

Telecare sensors are strategically placed around the home on ceilings, doors, and walls, or worn by the service user as a pendant. These sensors encompass smoke detectors, flood detectors, fall sensors, and medication dispenser alerts.

When a sensor is triggered in an individual’s home, an alert is automatically relayed to the council’s 24-hour Tele Care Alarm Receiving Centre. They will then make contact with the service user to ensure their safety. In many cases, practical advice and reassurance are all that is required. However, occasionally a personal visit or physical assistance may be necessary. In such instances, the response centre staff will coordinate the appropriate support, either by contacting a family member, arranging a visit from the TeleCare mobile response service, or, if required, getting in touch with an emergency service. The response centre retains pertinent personal information about the service user and can identify which sensor in the home has been activated, ensuring that the necessary responses are promptly arranged.

As part of the infrastructure update, over 5,200 pieces of equipment have been transitioned to digital, with sensors now operating autonomously using SIM technology, independent of any other connectivity in the home, such as broadband or Wi-Fi signal.

All facets of the Alarm Receiving Centre’s infrastructure have also been modernised to guarantee uninterrupted service and the quickest, most efficient response times feasible.

Currently, Leeds Tele Care Services supports nearly 10,000 residents in the city, with 6,227 of them directly linked to the Alarm Receiving Centre, and an additional 3,343 equipped with devices that alert a carer or family member residing in the same property as the service user.

In 2022/23, the Alarm Receiving Centre processed 537,451 alerts, resulting in 1,256 ambulance dispatches, 833 calls to the fire service, and 289 police visits. The mobile response team also assisted in 3,236 cases, while 78,557 phone calls were made to reassure the service user who had triggered the alarm.

Leeds Tele Care Services also aids the Yorkshire Ambulance Service by responding to approximately 75 non-injury falls per month, ensuring ambulances remain available to respond to other emergencies in the city.

Leeds City Council executive member for adult social care, public health and active lifestyles Councillor Salma Arif said; “Leeds Tele Care Services provides a vital role in the city helping to support and keep safe some of the most vulnerable members of our communities. It is very pleasing that this essential upgrade of the equipment and infrastructure has been completed well ahead of time, and the service is now stronger and more effective than ever moving into the future. We look forward to seeing the service continue to grow, as part of our commitment to Leeds being a compassionate and age-friendly city supporting people to live independently at home or in a place of their choice.”

Leeds Tele Care Services is presently exploring avenues to expand the support it offers to residents of Leeds. For further information about the available support, please email TelecareReferrals@leeds.gov.uk or contact the team on 0113 378 2991.