Telecare Soapbox: What should the role of the Telecare Services Association be? (UK)

Editor Steve Hards asks if it is time for a reconsideration of the role of the Telecare Services Association (TSA).

With yesterday’s news of the draft EU Telehealth Code of Practice (including telecare) some of the TSA’s members are wondering why it is about to spend up to £25,000 of their money developing one of its own to extend its existing Telecare Code of Practice.

But there is a deeper question that they and the TSA Board members should be considering…

Have the organisation and the industry matured to the point where the TSA’s role as ‘industry association’ and its role as ‘regulator of the social alarms and telecare industry’ (TSA’s Articles of Association 3f and 3a respectively) have become incompatible?

Most trade bodies have requirements of their members in the form of codes of conduct. These are usually around the application of ethical standards in sales practices so that industry outsiders can be reasonably confident that a member company is not a rogue or that there is redress if they are.

Unlike the TSA, most trade organisations check, but do not accredit their members’ technical performance credentials. Indeed, not all TSA member companies are accredited against its code of practice because members comprise a wide range of companies and organisations and the code mostly applies to those that provide services to the public, such as alarm response centres. Conversely, it is not possible for a perfectly respectable, responsible, effective and efficient service company that meets the performance standards to be accredited by the TSA unless it is a member.

This situation sets up an unfortunate tension.

Because many invitations to tender and contracts require accreditation against the TSA code, members that depend on TSA accreditation for continuing in business are completely inhibited from expressing views about wider issues of TSA policy and direction that may be contrary to the views of key directors.

The danger of such a situation is the repression of the kind of internal disagreements and robust discussion that strengthen organisations. This is probably not good for the TSA. It is certainly not good for members. They should not have to wonder from one day to the next whether their trade body is going to be supporting them or putting their livelihood at risk.

With the development of the 3 Million Lives initiative at a time when commissioning savvy has haemorrhaged from the NHS; when new, clueless commissioners will be looking at TSA accreditation as a shorthand for appropriate service and disregarding non-TSA accredited companies that may have products and services which would suit them well, it is surely time to consider whether the interests of the industry would be better served by the separation of the TSA’s powers.

Perhaps it is about time that the TSA reaffirmed is role as industry representative (and conference organiser) and gives up its accreditation role to an independent organisation that could accredit service provider companies regardless of their TSA membership status.

Could the TSA rise to the challenge of keeping up its subscription income just by meeting the needs of its members? Or does it fear that many would leave if it does not hold the accreditation whip?

Categories: Soapbox.

Comments

  1. Editor for Anon 1

    Steve

    You raise some very interesting points here, ones that have been doing the rounds for some time both inside and outside of the TSA membership. I only hope we are brave enough to have the discussion you suggest. It is the TSA AGM next week – is there a better time? I predict, however, that they will stick to the same Agenda. The problem, of course, is that many of the dissenters (and there are many) won’t be in the room. They’ve either moved on already, having seen the TSA as irrelevant to their business development or, they feel they won’t be heard, so they don’t turn up.

    The other problem, of course, is that members don’t often talk to one another so remain ignorant of others’ views. So well done for giving us a forum to have the debate that, properly, should be held within TSA.

    The biggest reason people don’t speak up of course is because TSA are judge and jury. People are frightened to comment because they feel it may affect their accreditation. Exhibit A – I feel I have to post this comment anonymously because I’m concerned our accreditation may be affected.

    I encourage everyone to join the debate HERE that we are denied elsewhere. You can stay anonymous, just email your comment to Steve at his email address. No doubt the TSA won’t like it, but if TSA is to survive they have to hear it. Interesting that when we talk about TSA we think in terms of its Directors but actually its ‘us’. We pay the fees (membership, conference, training, accreditation), we pay the wages…lets take it back and stop thinking of TSA as ‘theirs’, its ‘ours’.

  2. Editor for Anon 2

    I don’t believe that we need an organisation such as the TSA in its current form. There is sufficient presence in the industry and a large number of committed individuals that are fully capable of representing the sector when required. The world has moved on even in the last five years (to take a random period) but the TSA hasn’t.

    Fine if the TSA is to be a sector campaigning body there to serve the needs of members, but one has to question its role in standards. Why should there be such a prescriptive methodology – in virtually ever other activity providers / companies stand or fall on their ability to meet customer needs. If you’re flexible, some people like that – others prefer structure and fewer choice options. There are a plethora of standards (ISO, BS etc.) that are perfectly suitable, or that could be with a little work, and some broader understanding of what it is to be a telecare provider by the TSA.

    Yes, telecare is a life saving service at times and there is a need to ensure standards are maintained. But, as Panorama showed only this week [i][TV programme revealed ill-treatment in a care home for older people that had been rated excellent. Ed. Steve][/i] – and not for the first time – you can have stars coming out of your ears and still cross the lines of reasonable human behaviour. Ultimately, good performance is a consequence of serious, committed individuals running and working in organisations with a goal of doing the right thing to the best of their ability and capacity.

    Anon 1 makes a very valid point – you do feel that you have to be anonymous and yes because, like it or not, your accreditation lies with a very small number of people and if you don’t see eye to eye with them you are right to fear for your continued acceptance in the club. I won’t be in the AGM next week because the folks in Wilmslow don’t listen, don’t respond, don’t understand on many occasions. I have other priorities in a busy world and brick wall head banging isn’t high on the list. As an organisation we will attend but it really is a case of keeping track of the next thing they’re considering and whether we need to respond.

    It is perhaps easy to ‘have a go’ from the sidelines and I have often asked myself whether I ought to be more proactive and effect change from within. However, all of the evidence to date in my dealings with the association lead me to the conclusion that it really wouldn’t work. So I park the thought and go back to the simple, basic task of making sure that my organisation’s customers get the best service out of what we offer.

    Which ought, IMHO, be what the TSA should be doing.

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