Telecare Soapbox: TSA2011 losing touch and losing relevance?

This Soapbox is published anonymously for someone who wished to express some observations and feedback for the conference organisers and the TSA membership without compromising his company. Please note Telecare Aware’s Anonymity Policy (Soapbox Section right sidebar).

Given the economic climate, TSA will undoubtedly report excellent results for its 2011 conference. And with so many corporate sponsors, it will certainly have been a great financial success. But careful analysis of the attendees listed reveals a concerning trend with a large proportion being either presenters, organisers, or exhibitors. My count approached almost half of the list of 600+ published names. Core delegates, especially traditional TSA members were hard to spot. That’s not surprising with Local Authority budgets under such strain, although one council did fund seven staff – no financial pressure there then!

But beyond the price point (with travel etc., about £1000 for the full three day bash) the agenda lacked relevance to the core membership. By design or by default was less than clear. In times of austerity one wonders how TSA justified the expense, presumably totalling around £20,000, for celebs Roy Lilley, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Nick Hewer? A back to basics – at an affordable price – may have been more realistic, sympathetic, and far more attractive to core members running demanding services in these hard pressed times. Something more redolent of those excellent ASAP events – even if they were a little flip chart and OHP in their production.

On the TSA exhibition stand there was a glossy postcard bizarrely asking “What does TSA mean to you?” and “TSA stands for ………” . Try as I may to repopulate the three letter acronym, I failed. However, I did conclude that TSA is in danger of losing touch, losing relevance and losing members – evidenced by the event itself. With classic TSA clarity, the card also promised “a prize for the best suggestion”. Would that be one year’s free membership; second prize…? In the bar, one wag offered TSA as Trevor Single Associates…

Critically, TSA’s traditional support – 64% in fact – is firmly grounded in its 225 monitoring centre members and yet there was little on the conference agenda to attract them, even if they had budget to attend. Ministers, Mandarins and Media types mean little to the core membership – probably even less to the international contingent that the organisers seemed so keen to woo. But finally, after years of anticipation, escalation of monitoring centre consolidation has begun in earnest. The drivers of government mantra of shared back office alongside slashed local authority budgets have finally created real motivation for substantial change. Of late, hardly a week goes by without yet another tender for outsourcing this component of the R2R model.

So was the 2011 conference a subtle signal that new TSA is wanting to stretch the clear blue water from the old? No wonder London Telecare thrives.

Categories: Soapbox.


  1. jo

    The TSA conference this year was certainly a marriage of practical sessions on good old telecare (that were relegated to workshops), and the plenary sessions involving the great and the good (with a distinct focus on telehealth strategies). I understand that most delegates voted with their feet and preferred to stay in the exhibition area rather than listen to the main speakers while they also complained that there were so many good workshops that they were spoiled for choice.

    Tweeting, video-streaming and slide share have made plenary sessions less relevant, so perhaps the organisers have simply lost touch with the membership who pay their salaries. Indeed, while they expand their team with business development personnel charged with recruiting new members, they lack the expertise and capacity to provide their existing membership with the support that they need to survive through growth and quality improvement.

    If this is part of a deliberate policy then it can only reflect badly on the CEO and/or the board of directors.

  2. Lorna Muir

    I would firstly like to refer to the ‘rules’ of anonymous postings on the Telecare Aware website. The conditions state the person writing should be close to the situation to make comment and that the decision to publish is based on whether or not it is informed opinion. I would suggest this posting is distinctly uninformed and remote from the current TSA organisation and strategy. I would also suggest that remarks made about individuals presumably intended to amuse are actually spiteful and bordering on, if not actually, libellous.

    Nevertheless, an opinion is simply that, a subjective view. The reality is that the TSA International Conference was a great success evidenced by the evaluations returned, the number of attendees (826 and 45 exhibitors) as well as the interest and involvement of senior officials and major players in the industry, home and abroad. I could go on at length regarding TSA’s commitment to its members and how they are respected and served. For example, numerous member forums offered free of charge, good practice guides available for practitioners and service providers, regular eNews keeping members up to date with the latest technical issues, Government announcements etc. The writer clearly does not understand the reasons for TSA devising a programme that attract s “Ministers, Mandarins and Media types” and has therefore revealed his (or her) lack of insight into the issues affecting all of our members. Exposing these ‘types’ to the current and potential value of our industry serves to establish commitment to the future growth of services designed to support people in the community. It is helpful to the staff and Directors of TSA to receive constructive criticism that helps with our review of conference and other events organised for members and non members. This, however, is better done when we are able to discuss concerns with members and not enter into dialogue with nameless individuals. My final observation is one of dismay that someone who is presumably linked to the world of technology states a yearning for the days of flipchart and overhead projectors. I may actually understand why the posting is anonymous.

    Lorna Muir

  3. Ed. Steve

    Lorna, thank you for carrying the discussion forward. You raise two issues: the accuracy of the content and the appropriateness of publishing it. The accuracy is a matter of opinion (which is what a Soapbox item is) and I am happy to ask readers to indicate by means of a comment (either publicly below or privately by email) their opinion on the appropriateness or otherwise of publishing it. ‘Yea’ or ‘Nay’ will do.

  4. cathy

    Well we did not attend mainly because of cost – so I concur with that critcism; but that is the nature of conference activity in the current economic climate rather than specifically a TSA matter.

    I have also found the last few conference events (of any organisation) I have attended probably did not really address the issues that were of most interest to me – again that is the nature of such events I guess.

    Finally, I have during recent networking, heard from several people who did attend and who also felt that the TSA confernece did not live up to previous expectations. I hope as Lorna suggests that those people that feel strongly have already provided that feedback directly so the organisers can take action to address. However, the nature of human beings is to pass messages through word of mouth and not always to feedback directly.

    As Steve says – the accuracy is a matter of an individual’s opinion but I fully support the publication of the Soapbox item here

  5. Lol.

    This article was funny, and written probably when the person wasn’t in the best of moods.

    I’m not a member of the TSA so I don’t have much involvement in it, but I have exhibited and attended both conferences and regional meetings, and it’s a lot of people all in one room discussing how to improve the uptake of telecare. So it can’t be that bad!

    I’ve always had the belief that conferences are just an opportunity to extend your network – I never go to the talks because they are all about the same thing, and that doesn’t mean they’re not relevant but I’m just young so I don’t have a long enough attention span ;)!

    The reason they are all the same is not the TSA’s fault, but because there is not enough of an advancement from Gov & Directors of Social Care to re-write the way care is commissioned and involve Telecare more. Stuff like the WSD project are good steps towards that.

    So unfortunately, speakers are still having to talk about the same stuff because the ideas and plans of last year haven’t been seen through.

    I think it’s wrong to knock the TSA because if it wasn’t for them, they wouldn’t have got 826 people and 45 companies in one room. Only positive things can come from that.

    If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t have met Essex County Council and be where I am today.