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Two dead after 'fundamental weaknesses' in council's alarm system for vulnerable people

PUBLISHED: 17:00 18 April 2019

Newham Council is dealing with a second dispute with Unite members. Picture: KEN MEARS

Newham Council is dealing with a second dispute with Unite members. Picture: KEN MEARS

Archant

Two people have died because of failings in Newham's Telecare service, which provides alarms to the disabled, elderly and other vulnerable people.

The historic cases were brought to light in an audit of the Newham Network Telecare Services (NNTS).

In July 2017 a person died despite setting off their alarm. After one operator put them on hold, another accidentally deleted the call. They were found dead two hours later.

Two members of staff were sacked after an investigation the same year.

In second incident in February 2018, someone from the service went to perform a welfare visit for a service user in distress.

They arrived at the home and called an ambulance, but left on another call before the emergency services arrived.

By the time paramedics arrived, the person who relied on the alarm was dead.

Friends or relatives are usually called on to attend the calls from Telecare alarms. NNTS staff only attend when there is no-one else to check on them.

While a procedure for waiting calls has been developed to prevent the first incident from happening again, the report said there was no record of any policy to prevent the second.

However the audit was undertaken from April to August 2018, and a council spokeswoman said that procedures have since changed.

The audit also criticised the overall performance and management of the service.

The NNTS has a target to answer calls within 60 seconds. At the time of the audit, that target hadn't been met since September 2017.

Of the three senior posts within the service, two were vacant and a sample rota seen by the auditors in mid 2018 showed there weren't enough staff to cover some shifts.

In response to the problems, NNTS has reinstated its call quality monitoring as of January this year. People working the phones are met one-to-one to review their performance.

A review of the service is also due to be undertaken by the new head of independent living, who joined in February 2019.

A Newham Council spokeswoman said: “We deeply regret the death of any user of council services.

“Thorough investigations were undertaken after both incidents. Lessons have been learnt and action taken as part of our ongoing improvement plan for Newham Network, which has been in place since August 2018.”

She added that the service has changed 'significantly' since the audit after putting an improvement plan into effect.

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