SENIOR health officials are reviewing the operation of the Telecare alarm system for vulnerable adults following the fatal fire which killed 51-year-old Barbara Anderson in August.
The Inverness Courier revealed on Tuesday that the system installed at Ms Anderson’s home in Leyton Drive, Hilton, failed to alert the Telecare call centre that fire had broken out, meaning the fire service was not immediately summoned.
Police are investigating the case and in the meantime NHS Highland, which is responsible for Telecare, is checking all 3,700 units fitted in people’s homes across the region.
The checks are due to be completed by the end of October, but it has now emerged that the health board’s inquiry also extends to how the system is being run.
In a reply to Independent MSP John Finnie, who knew spina bifida sufferer Ms Anderson, NHS Highland’s chief operating officer Deborah Jones stated: "We have immediately instigated a review of the current arrangements to support the use of Telecare equipment in Highland, including testing of all installations with smoke detection sensors. This programme of testing will be completed by the end of October, with all users identified as vulnerable already tested."
Mr Finnie, a former police officer, welcomed the wider scope of the inquiry. "In addition to physical checks of the equipment they need to look at the human support that goes along with it," he said yesterday. "There’s no point in an alarm going off if no one responds to it. I am sure that will form part of their review."
Telecare allows elderly and disabled people to summon immediate assistance and consists of a base unit and small transmitter, which can be worn around the neck or clipped onto clothing. When activated, the base automatically links to an NHS24-run call centre in Aberdeen where operators can summon help as required.
Special smoke alarms can also be connected to the unit ensuring the fire service is alerted without delay if there is a fire. This is the element which apparently failed to work in Ms Anderson’s home on 6th August and the alarm was subsequently raised by a member of the public.
Ms Anderson, a retired civilian employee at Burnett Road Police Station who used a wheelchair, was declared dead after being pulled from her flat by firefighters.
NHS Highland’s review of the system has been welcomed by the Highland Senior Citizens Network.
"It shows they are acting in an incredibly responsible manner if they are going to test every unit in the community and ensure they are working well," said its chairman Dr Ian McNamara.
When the police investigation is complete a file will be submitted to the Procurator Fiscal, who will decide whether to hold a fatal accident inquiry.
Have you experienced problems with the Telecare system? Contact the newsdesk on 01463 233059 or email firstname.lastname@example.org