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Skype system comes to Rhoda's rescue

BEING ill in the middle of the night is bad enough if you’re young and generally healthy, but imagine if you were 93 and living alone. It could be terrifying.Rhoda

That’s what happened to Droylsden pensioner Rhoda Davies. She not only lives by herself but has no close family. Her only option was to press her alarm pendant to summon Tameside Community Response.

Only a few months ago Rhoda could have faced a long wait for the duty doctor to be tracked down and then have her name added to his list of calls. Luckily, the council’s mobile wardens started using Skype in April and so could make immediate contact with Tameside Hospital’s digital health care centre.

Medical staff, who had access to Rhoda’s records, and were able to give advice that allowed her to stay in her own home rather than face a stressful journey in ambulance and assessment in Accident and Emergency.

Rhoda explained: “I was violently ill in the early hours of the morning and in a real mess. As I haven’t got any family all I could do was press my pendant button.

“At night, you usually have a long wait to see the doctor depending on his situation, so I was surprised how quickly it all went. They talked to him, he asked a few questions, and that was it.

“Carers called and I had no need to go to hospital, and it was so good to be able to see someone on the computer dealing with my problem.”

Skype allows Tameside Council to save the National Health Service a large amount of money. It costs around £500 to send an ambulance, yet since the new scheme was introduced only five out of 15 call-outs have required hospital attendance.

In these cases the hospital was fully briefed. That meant the patient could be fast-tracked with the necessary medical team waiting. There was no need to go through triage or endure a long stay in A and E.

Currently, the iPads are being trialled from 8am to 6pm but the plan is to make them available 24 hours a day.

Additionally, the community response team has its own lifting equipment. Its use has meant that out of the 1,200 falls dealt with in the last six months, only 93 needed an ambulance. This equates to a saving of around £500,000.

Sandra Whitehead, Tameside Council's assistant executive director for adult services, said: “We’re delighted to say the new digital healthcare system has been enthusiastically received not only by wardens and medical staff but also by residents, who are our most important consideration.

“Tameside is the only authority using digital healthcare in an integrated way, and the many benefits of our joined-up approach – including cost savings – are already plain to see.”