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People in need of assistive technologies generally have contacts with many organisations, departments and professionals in the course of having their needs being assessed and met.

It is not uncommon for disabled and older people to receive between six and ten different assessments, for the different types of assistive technology.

Generally, clinical and technical staff can only assess for certain equipment types and are not able to carry out wider holistic and whole-person assessments i.e. looking at all assistive technology related needs. This is largely owing to organisational boundaries, lack of integration, different budgets and limiting eligibility criteria.

Often the different professionals carrying out assessments for an individual do not formally communicate with each other. Different information systems capture each service, and AT equipment is supplied from a number of locations and providers at different times.

Clearly the various assistive technology related services are currently not commissioned or provided in a person-centred or cost-effective way. Despite the interdependencies and overlaps between services, there are generally few systems, processes and arrangements in place to connect them, and often the service user falls between the gaps.

The emergence of new technologies is good for health, care, education and work, but without a coherent strategy and approach, these have the potential to add a further layer of complication and bureaucracy to the already fragmented provision of services.

The status quo is costly and is not meeting people’s wider needs effectively

The following comments from CECOPS’ chairman, Sir Bert Massie CBE, a user of various assistive technologies, sum up exactly why The AT Hub is absolutely necessary at this time and why people should unite to make change happen:

I am one complete person and I need to be treated as such…

Sir BertWe hear a lot about person-centred and integrated care nowadays, but nowhere is this more lacking at present than in the structure and running of the various assistive technology related services across the sectors. Even if individual services are working well, the disjointed nature of provision is obstructing the achievement of good user experience.

In my experience, the people designing services often fail to appreciate that a disabled person uses a full range of assistive technology, e.g. wheelchair, speech-board, telecare, handrails and ramps, and many other items. I also have adaptations to my home and my car.

If each type of AT is compartmentalised, the result is a multitude of different services, each with its own assessments, commissioning structures, staff and arrangements in place. This means users have a lot of contacts with different organisations to get what they need. I am one complete person and I need to be treated as such to get the best outcome for me.

Our needs do not conform to such administrative boundaries, and if a piece of equipment is provided that only meets part of our needs, our independence and social inclusion can be compromised.

The problem lies in the way the whole system works; the whole delivery of services is hugely disjointed and a very poor experience for service users and their carers, not to mention the waste of public funds on duplication of staff and systems. If we were to design AT services from scratch, I doubt very much we would end up with what we have in place today. Person-centred it is not!

Furthermore, rarely are disabled people involved in what assistive technologies would best meet their wider needs. Despite all the talk and good intentions with regards to the social model of disability, assistive technology services are usually provided to meet immediate clinical needs. Co-production is still only management speak which has not happened in reality at scale.

To make any lasting improvements, especially in today’s financial climate, the system needs to change urgently; otherwise we are at risk of the whole thing spiralling out of control, with people’s conditions getting worse while they wait, which will inevitably be more costly to deal with in the long run.

This is why I am fully behind the idea of connecting assistive technology related services across all sectors and I am delighted to be involved in The AT Hub initiative facilitated by CECOPS.

I call on governments, public sector organisations, policy makers, academic institutions, trade and professional associations, user groups, individuals, and third sector organisations to get behind this excellent and worthy initiative.”

Sir Bert Massie CBE, DL, Chairman, CECOPS CIC