bed blockingThe growing elderly population is a global trend which, coupled with an increase in the number of people living with Long-Term Conditions (LTCs), increases demand for health and care services, with associated fiscal strains, in all societies.

Continuing with the same models of delivery is not going to be sustainable. New approaches and service delivery models need to be found that will deliver more efficient and effective care, whilst maintaining safe and good quality services.

People need to be equipped with the right products and services to help them become more independent and to be better supported in managing their own care. This includes disabled children and adults, to ensure they have the same life expectations, opportunities and outcomes as other citizens. Services also need to be geared toward prevention and early intervention to avoid unnecessary and costlier episodes of care later on.

One method to address some of the concerns above is the better deployment of assistive technologies – from orthotics, prosthetics, walking aids, beds, wheelchairs, and communication aids, through to more advanced electronic assistive technologies such as telecare products and telehealth equipment. If used strategically these can support health and care services significantly and meet a range of government policy aims.

Not only does effective provision of assistive technology improve outcomes for service users, including social inclusion and quality of life, but it can also reduce the burden on the state by enabling independent living, enhancing employment prospects and enabling individuals to take control of their own lives – all of which have a part to play in tackling the worldwide problem of funding longevity.

But a shift towards better deployment of all assistive technologies has not really happened at scale, for a variety of reasons. At strategic level, there is generally failure to appreciate the benefits of this equipment, and as a result there is no overall strategy or vision to integrate the many departments and bodies which currently issue it in such a piecemeal way.

Most assistive technology-related services operate completely separately and independently from one another, resulting in duplication, poor use of resources, and wastage, not to mention the effect on the service user of having to undergo multiple assessments.

One of the results of failing to provide assistive technologies and disability equipment effectively is significant unnecessary cost for the health and care economy, for example through delayed hospital discharges, and unnecessary hospital and care home admissions. Providing services inappropriately is always a false economy.

Incorporating assistive technologies into the delivery of health and care provision is a whole-systems responsibility. It starts with good planning, commissioning and governance. This inevitably flows through to good service provision and clinical involvement. Each of these service areas needs to be clear about their respective responsibilities. There also need to be measurable outcomes and standards in place.

The new UK-wide Code of Practice for Disability Equipment, Wheelchairs and Seating Services

The new UK-wide Code of Practice for Disability Equipment, Wheelchairs and Seating Services is designed to address this, and offers a template for commissioning and providing services; it includes clearly defined and specific standards and measurable outcomes.

Following the Code, in all its parts, will go a long way in overcoming many of the difficulties highlighted above and will significantly improve both clinical and financial outcomes. It will also help to identify where weaknesses are within the whole system and allow root causes to be traced. Following the Code will also enable any equipment-related strategies to be achieved.

The Code, in some or all its parts, relates mainly to disability equipment, wheelchair and seating services. It also applies more generally to other assistive technology-related services; there are certain Code Standards which provide a link to related services, which will assist with integration and offering seamless provision.

The Code is free of charge to organisations registered with CECOPS, or a hard copy or an eBook can be obtained from here: http://www.troubador.co.uk/book_info.asp?bookid=3270 or via the CECOPS website: www.cecops.org.uk

Revolutionary New Self-evaluation & Performance Management Tool now available to Support Planning, Commissioning and Provision of Assistive Technology related services, iCOPS®

In addition to the Code CECOPS has supported the development of iCOPS®, the first ever self-evaluation and performance management software tool for assistive technology related services, including wheelchairs, to complement its scheme.

iCOPS® gives commissioners, providers and clinical staff the ability to evaluate and review services, manage contracts, instil good governance, monitor, assess and manage quality, safety and performance, and drive continuous improvement.

iCOPS® also enables organisations to comply with all their obligations including CECOPS and ISO, for example.

Details about iCOPS® can be found here: www.icops.co.uk. A free one month trial is available.

Find out more about the Code and how it fits with the wider CECOPS scheme here: http://www.cecops.org.uk/2015/03/wheelchair-seating-services-now-covered-by-cecops-standards-uk-and-beyond/

Please get in touch if you would like to discuss any of the points above.

Brian Donnelly

Brian is the founder and director of CECOPS CIC and the author of the Code of Practice.

CECOPS CIC is a not-for-profit social enterprise and is the independent standards body for disability equipment services in the UK.

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