The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) has outlined three priority needs and four workstreams to support telecare in the transition of the national telephone network from analogue to digital.
It has set out its plan in a policy paper on the issue, which comes in response to the decision by BT to retire the public switched telephone network (PSTN) by December 2025.
This raises risks for users of telecare services run by local authorities, housing associations, the third sector and commercial organisations, with devices currently connected to the PSTN having to be switched to the digital network.
DHSC says its action plan to mitigate the risks applies to England but is relevant to the UK as a whole, and that it has been working with stakeholders since last year to identify and co-ordinate necessary actions.
It has identified three priority needs for people who use telecare services: to understand all aspects of the switchover that affect them; to experience a smooth transition that includes an assessment of their equipment for digital compatibility; and to be able to benefit from future improvements in digital services made possible by the switchover.
Communication and guidance
The actions aimed at meeting these have been divided into four connected workstreams, including communication among stakeholders to identify and support the users, communication with the users, and the development of best practice and guidance for stakeholders in the sector.
There will also be support for local authorities in developing business cases and strategies, aligned with support from the Local Government Association’s working group on the issue.
Writing in the paper’s foreword, DHSC minister Lord Markham says the plan will be updated each quarter and that: “Telecare service providers should act now with other telecare and telecommunications sector stakeholders to make sure people who use their services – our vulnerable citizens – are protected and prepared for the future.”
The paper says that an estimated 1.8 million people in the UK currently use telecare services, with 1.3 million in their own homes and 500,000 in care homes.