Ainsley Bowles, Telehealthcare Development Consultant, Tunstall, reflects on a recent event exploring connected care for people with learning disabilities.

“Ahead of the game for the last 60 years” – this was how Princess Anne described Tunstall to me when I was honoured to meet her at a recent event hosted by the HFT on personalised technology for people living with learning disabilities.

The HFT is a national charity supporting people with learning disabilities and their families to develop effective, person-centred care. Tunstall has worked with the HFT on projects looking at technology enabled care, including the Dallas project, an evaluation of how innovative technologies and services can be used to promote well-being and provide top quality health and care.

We have recently been involved with the HFT on a new project setting up a SMART house in a specialist school for people with sensory impairment at St Vincent’s School. A SMART house is a home, or in this case a school, which is equipped with lighting, heating and additional technology which can be connected and controlled remotely through a computer or portable device.

Meeting Princess Anne

During the conference, I was invited to meet Princess Anne as she is a patron for the HFT. She spoke at the event about technologies, telemedicine and the importance of tailoring equipment to suit the person. This session really stood out to me because she used the word ‘telecare’ throughout which is a rare occurrence in the world of learning disabilities as the phrase usually used is ‘assistive technologies’. I was delighted to hear her showcasing how useful telecare was for those with learning disabilities and supporting its use.

Princess Anne has some history with Tunstall, she came to visit us in Whitley, Yorkshire, in 1984, opening the Whitley Lodge which is now our head office. It was a huge privilege to meet her and she spoke to me about Tunstall, saying that they have been ‘ahead of the game’ for the last 60 years!

A moving story about how technology can improve lives

The event was full of interesting debates and some fascinating presentations. A session that really grabbed my attention was that of an impactful case study. Rebecca (who is partially deaf and supported by HFT) shared her story about how technology has supported her.

Rebecca was provided with:

  • A picture phone, so that she could ring her family and friends herself
  • A talking thermometer to help her with her cooking, which tells her when her meat is ready
  • A personal alarm (such as a pendant alarm) for if she has an emergency, alerting her carers that she needs assistance
  • A deaf guard that alerts her visually and through vibrations if the fire alarm goes off
  • A finger-print device on the front door which only allows registered people to get in

These technologies were personal to Rebecca’s condition and allowed her to move from residential care to her own home – allowing her to live more independently. It was great to hear a success story about how technology can really improve lives.

I had a surreal but enjoyable day at the HFT personalised technology conference, learning about great upcoming technologies and projects and being honoured to meet the Princess. I felt an enormous pride to be representing Tunstall and the life changing work that we do.

Photo: Ainsley Bowles, Telehealthcare Development Consultant, Tunstall, meets Princess Anne.