Telecare Soapbox: Council runs liability risk with inappropriate telecare provision

James Batchelor, MD of Alertacall, raises a serious issue for councils and other telecare suppliers: what risk is a council running when its employee substitutes a ‘standard’ but inappropriate equipment package for a privately-funded one that was more suitable for the client? Would the person’s consent to the course of action be a defence if the consent were based on inappropriate advice?

The other week we had a call from a customer to say that she no longer wanted to use Alertacall – our nationwide safety confirmation service. Using our system we know that a customer is up and about safely in the morning or back home at the end of the day and, if not, we can alert several contacts. This customer ‘checked in’ with us both morning and night.

When asked why she no longer wanted to continue with the service, the customer told us that the council had come in, unplugged her Alertacall equipment from the phone line, and told her that what she needed was community alarm and a fall detector. The customer asked the council whether she should keep on using Alertacall (she was happy to do so at her own expense) but the council’s representative told her it was not necessary and left her with “such a jumble of wires” that she was not able to work out how to plug the Alertacall phone back in, anyway.

This customer had insulin dependent diabetes and was recovering from stroke. One of her main concerns was that she might have problems waking in the morning because of another stroke or because of a hypo whilst she was sleeping. It hadn’t occurred to her that the equipment the council had installed would not be able to help in those circumstances.

It not only seems unethical that a council has taken out a client’s privately procured equipped and told them that they didn’t need to use it, but it seems even more ridiculous when it is clear the council representative had no idea what its purpose was and the unique value that equipment delivered to that individual. Alertacall could be a life saver for that customer.

To add to this – whilst the customer was talking to us on the phone, we asked whether she was actually now wearing the fall detector and pendant. To which she replied “No, I’ve left them upstairs actually”.

Should that customer have a problem waking one morning, or become unconscious when she was not wearing her new equipment, and was subsequently left for several days, I do wonder whether the local authority would be liable and held negligent given that it had removed the equipment the individual already had that could have helped?

Categories: Soapbox.