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New innovative health services for dementia patients in Surrey

16-Feb-16

The following is a news article from the Home Counties Carers website -

The fridges, kettles and curtains of dementia patients will be wired-up to make sure they are eating properly and getting out of bed, as part of a new NHS pilot to allow people to stay in their own homes for longer.

A collaboration between Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and an array of health technology providers which will help people with dementia to live in their own homes for longer. Individuals and their carers will be provided with sensors, wearables, monitors and other devices, which will combine into an ‘Internet of Things’ to monitor their health at home. This will empower people to take more control over their own health and wellbeing.

It is one of a six major schemes that has been launched by the NHS set to revolutionise the health service through modern technology.

The NHS has teamed up with a number of technology companies including IBM, Philips and Verily, the former life sciences arm of Google.

Wearable technology like Jawbone, Fitbit, Misfit, the Pebble and Apple smartwatches are already helping people monitor heart rate, sleeping patterns, steps taken, diet, alcohol intake and running speed. But companies are now developing health gadgets which can check blood pressure, monitor insulin levels and even pick up neurological conditions by videoing eye movement. Apps which remind patients to take their medication have already been trialled.

It means that people suffering from chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes, heart disease or high blood pressure could be constantly monitored remotely through wearable skins sensors or smartphone apps with data uploaded directly to health records so that problems can be spotted immediately.

Under the pilot scheme in Surrey, people with dementia will also be given tracking devices so that family members can make sure they are not in danger or wandering too far from home or devices which alert health workers in the event of a fall, and monitor changes in walking patterns. They will also be trained to use online programmes where they can find care plans, diaries, reminiscence pages and online chat facilities .

Hilary Evans, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “Trials of this sort are vital to know whether new technologies can have a real impact on people’s lives, and it’s good to see that tools aimed at helping people with dementia are being evaluated as part of this scheme."

“Many of the projects being assessed aim to support people with dementia to live independently for longer, but there is also a desperate need for new treatments, preventions and better diagnostic tools. Investment in research must continue if we are to defeat dementia, and we must ensure that new treatments can reach the people who need them as quickly as possible.”

Health experts are hoping the digital revolution will free up resources and allow people to monitor their own health rather than relying on professionals. It is estimated that going digital will save the NHS up to £5 billion over the next decade.

In Surrey 6,606 people have a formal diagnosis of dementia although it is estimated that around 16,800 people have some form of the condition. In 2013 18% of the county’s population was over the age of 65; this is due to rise to 25% by 2037.

Fiona Edwards, Chief Executive of Surrey and Borders, said: “I’m really excited that we have been given this opportunity to improve the quality of life for people with dementia and their families. With a growing elderly population who are likely to experience long-term physical and mental health conditions, innovative new technologies such as those we are trialling through the Internet of Things project will help more people to receive the support they need to live well in their own homes."

“It is also about improving responsiveness of the health and care system, providing support at an earlier stage and reducing the amount of time people spend in hospital.”

The project will take results from approximately 700 people, more than 10% of those on the dementia register in Surrey.

George McNamara, Head of Policy at Alzheimer’s Society said: “Two-thirds of people with dementia live in the community and we know they want to remain independent and in their own homes for longer. Technology can be invaluable in helping people living with dementia to do this and improve their everyday lives – it can also aid health professionals to deliver person-centred care."

“A quarter of hospital beds are taken up by people with dementia and millions is spent on preventable admissions. Our NHS and social care system has historically been too reactive, dealing with a series of emergencies. With an ageing population and more people living with multiple long-term conditions it is right we focus on prevention and keeping people out of hospital – anticipating and preventing crises. Not only does it make good economic sense, but reduces the human misery associated with emergency admissions to hospital."

“With any implementation of technology it is paramount that the person living with dementia should be at the centre of any decisions made. Each individual is different and their needs should be assessed on a case by case basis.”

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