Fred Reardon, an independent consultant writes about a life-threatening issue.
At the end of last week I received a letter from my broadband provider Sky [UK entertainment and communications services provider] to inform me of the new and improved network for Sky broadband and that they would be upgrading my service on the 2/2/2010 and that there would be a loss of service for a short time approx 25 minutes. I read through the letter to see what this would mean for me. At the very end of the letter the last paragraph was headed:
Social Alarm and Telecare service
If you have a remotely monitored social alarm service or Telecare services which uses your telephone line, you should contact us straight away.
As I have a Lifeline installed with telecare I contacted Sky. I was informed that as I had a social alarm they could not upgrade my service as it was not compatible and that my alarm would not work, therefore they would make a note that I have opted out of the upgrade. However, they have found that for some reason people have been opted back in and written to again if this should happen, and they acknowledge this is an inconvenience, but could I call them again and that would ensure that my service was not upgraded.
My concern is that telecare clients with Sky [and other such VOIP-based providers] may not understand the implications if they do not inform them. This is an important issue that the TSA, as the industry organisation for standards, should be campaigning about.
More specifically, my concerns are:
1. These letters will be sent to vulnerable and elderly people who may not understand the implications if they do not contact Sky.
2. The letter has detailed information and the reference to social alarms is the last paragraph and may be ignored.
3. Sky does not recognise or understand the seriousness of not being able to use your alarm, which can result in a life threatening situation not being responded to.
4. There should be a coordinated approach to the publicity, through the control centres who monitor the alarms. All clients would need to be contacted to make them aware of the situation if they are a Sky user with a BT line.
As someone who has delivered and installed alarms and telecare into vulnerable and elderly peoples homes, and how it changes their lives giving them independence and confidence, I am extremely worried that the service and technology will not work when it is most needed and that people will be left helpless with no knowledge of why, and how it could have been avoided. And there will be negative reports of the technology at a time when we as an industry are working hard to raise the profile and increase the number of vulnerable people who can benefit from telecare and telehealth.
Fred Reardon Telecare Consultancy Ltd