Thursday, 19 January 2017

Robots to Keep the Elderly Engaged and Active in Care Homes

Intuition Robotics’ ElliQ is a social companion robot with the ability to covey emotion through the tone of voice it uses and even its body language!

It has been created to help older people stay connected with their family and friends and to help them maintain a healthy level of cognitive and social activity. The robot reminds people to take their medication and suggests activities such as reading, going for a walk, playing games or phoning friends and family.

ElliQ inspires participation in activities by proactively suggesting and instantly connecting older adults to digital content such as TED talks, music or audiobooks; recommending activities in the physical world including taking a walk, keeping appointments and taking medications on time; and connecting with family through technology such as chat bots linked to Facebook Messenger, helping the elderly overcome technological barriers to connecting with the world.

Using machine learning, the robot learns the preferences, behaviour and personality of its owner, and proactively recommends activities based on the individual’s history and recommendations.

It is hope that ElliQ will help older adults living in isolation who increasingly rely on technology rather than face-to-face interaction, yet often find the technology confusing. As well as those who report ‘severe loneliness’ living in a care home.

Over 80 per cent of older care home residents with mental health problems say they feel lonely in their care home and that this could be eased if staff were able to spend more time with them. Many enjoy the company of care home staff, but see their workload as preventative to further social interaction.

The idea of having a robot companion is quite dystopian, especially for older generations. But through years of research, the team developing ElliQ have been able to develop a language and user report feeling natural, with subtle expressions that help develop a unique bond between ElliQ and its owner. ElliQ is not designed to replace human interaction, but it could be an important motivating factor in keeping older adults healthy and active.

Dor Skuler, chief executive and founder of Intuition Robotics, said “[Our goal is] to empower older adults to intuitively interact with technology and easily connect with content and loved ones, and pursue an active lifestyle.”

“We like to think of ElliQ as part communication coordinator, part facilitator of lifelong learning and part coach. She’s easy to talk to, intuitive to operate and understands her owner.”

CQC to Review Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services

As part of the government’s review of mental health services the CQC has been asked to lead "a major thematic review of children and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) across the country" to identify what is working well and what is not.

Writing in the Huffington Post the Prime Minister said “I want to see mental health addressed not just in our hospitals, but in our classrooms and communities.”

“I want to see a focus on prevention as well as treatment, especially since so many adult mental health problems – which 1 in 4 of us will suffer from at any one time – begin in childhood.”

“No parent should feel helpless when watching their child suffer. No teacher should feel ill-equipped to deal with a troubled pupil. No teenager should have to leave their local area to seek treatment. No child should ever be left to feel like their life is not worth living.”

The CQC will be undertaking the review this year, working with other agencies and inspectorates, and expects to report on its findings in 2017/18.

Welcoming the announcement Dr Paul Lelliott, CQC's Deputy Chief Inspector of Hospitals (lead for mental health), said “"We know from our own inspections of all mental health services in England that there are problems with the quality of care that children and adolescents receive. These include long waiting times for assessment and treatment and difficulty accessing inpatient care close to home for those who need it.

"Through our inspection and ratings, we are holding mental health services to account. However, good mental healthcare for young people is about much more than the work of these specialised services. It requires all those responsible for healthcare, social care and education to work together to identify mental health problems early and to provide the support and care that young people need to attain and maintain good mental health.

Our thematic review will identify the strengths and weaknesses of the current system to support young people's mental health and help us better understand the pathways that children with mental health issues follow and the obstacles that they face."

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Review in to the Use of Limited Partnerships Launched Amidst Reports of Criminality

A review of the use of the limited partnership business model has been launched by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, following accusations of criminality in Scotland.

The UK government is gathering evidence on the use of limited partnerships across the country, with a particular focus on those registered in Scotland. Unlike those set up in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, Scottish Limited Partnerships have their own ‘legal personality’, meaning they can hold assets, borrow money from banks and enter into contracts.

The call for evidence will help inform what further action, if any, is required to prevent limited partnerships being used as a front for unlawful activities such as money laundering and tax evasion, while also ensuring that the limited partnership business model continues to provide an efficient and flexible vehicle for legitimate business use.

Businesses and other interested parties are being called upon to take part in this call for evidence to help the UK government better understand what has led to huge increase in the number of limited partnerships being set up across the UK and what they are being used for.

UK government Business Minister Margot James said “I am concerned about recent reports relating to the use of limited partnerships, suggesting that some are being used for criminal activity. This undermines the many legitimate uses this form of incorporation can give.”

Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell said “It is right the UK government launches this call for evidence into the use of Scottish limited partnerships for possible criminal activity. Work by campaign groups and a series of media reports have highlighted growing concerns which require to be taken very seriously. I would urge businesses and organisations in Scotland to share their views. It is important we are able to gather as much information as we can.”

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Oldham GP Surgery Placed into Special Measures by the Care Quality Commission

England's Chief Inspector of General Practice has rated an Oldham GP Practice, Springfield House, as Inadequate and placed it into special measures following an inspection by the CQC in September.

The practice was rated as Inadequate for safe, effective, and well-led domains, and rated as 'Requires Improvement' for caring and responsive. The services provided by the practice have been rated as Inadequate overall.

The practice has been told it must:
  • Put systems in place to ensure staff are appropriately trained and that training remains current for their role.
  • Introduce effective monitoring and processes for reporting, recording and acting on significant events, investigating and responding to complaints and ensuring all medical equipment is within its expiry date.
  • Review chaperone procedures to avoid embarrassment to patients.
  • Ensure access to appointments is available for patients under the age of 16 who have the appropriate level of competence and wish to attend without a parent or guardian.
  • Ensure all employment checks are in place at recruitment to ensure well-qualified staff are employed.
The service will be kept under review and if needed could be escalated to urgent enforcement action. Where necessary, another inspection will be conducted within a further six months, and if there is not enough improvement the CQC will move to close the service.

Alison Holbourn, Deputy Chief Inspector of General Practice at CQC said: "We found that people registered with Springfield House aren't getting the high quality care which everyone should expect to receive from their GP practice.

“It was worrying to see that training at the practice wasn't well monitored and there was no evidence of all staff completing the appropriate training to carry out their role. We found that the practice weren't responsive to the needs of the people using the service, for example we saw no extended opening times, or programmes for specific groups such as carers.

"I do not believe that the practice is likely to resolve its challenges without external support; placing the practice into special measures ensures that action will be taken to improve the quality of care for patients."

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Select Committees Putting Pressure on PM to Address Social Care Crisis

The chairs of three of the most influential Common’s select committees (Health, Public Accounts and Communities and Local Government Committees) have written to the Prime Minster urging her to seek a rapid cross-party consensus on the “immense challenge” of paying for health and social care in the future.

The Committee Chairs said that a "political consensus" is needed to address the "pressing social care challenges facing the country" and that it must also include the NHS. They call on the Prime Minister to invite all parties to take part in an urgent review, covering the health and social care systems.

The MPs continue: "In short, the problem is widely recognised – we now need political agreement so that a solution for the long term can be found."

The letter reads: "We were encouraged by your recognition at the Liaison Committee that everyone has a part to play in finding a sustainable way of ensuring social care provision in the future. You also accepted the need for a review to find a way of funding social care sustainably for the long term.

We believe that can best be achieved if there is cross-party consensus, and therefore urge you to invite all parties to become involved in a review, which should begin as soon as possible. Given the scale of rising demand, this immense challenge will face whichever Party is in government over the coming decades."

The Committee Chairs argued that the consensus should be reached swiftly so that the agreed approach can be reflected in the next round of Government spending.

"We also feel that the ongoing separation of health and social care is creating difficulties for individuals and avoidable barriers and inefficiencies. Any review should cover the two systems", the MPs add.

Thursday, 29 December 2016

The Next Great Travel Writer 2017 Competition Now Open

Nothing excites the imagination quite like travel – and the very best travel writing can make us feel like we’re right there, riding the dusty railways with Paul Theroux or sweltering in the heat of the Spanish sun with Hemingway at our side.

But if you’re an aspiring writer, it’s not always easy to get your voice heard.

This winter Penguin and Travelex have teamed up to find the best short story by an aspiring travel writer. So whether you’re a student with editorial ambitions or you spend your days jotting down notes on your next voyage, this is the perfect platform to explore your talents – the winner gets a one-on-one session with a Penguin editor!

In addition to a one to one with an editor, the winner will also receive £1,500. The writer whose work gets the most tweets supporting their entry will be awarded a set of Penguin books. There will also be a special student prize (students are eligible for the main prize, and if it is won by a student, the runner up in the student category will be awarded the student prize).

The competition is for 1,000-word travel stories, which may be fictional or factual. Stories should preferably be based on the writer's real-life experience. Entry is free.

As the competition is for aspiring travel writers, people who are paid to write about travel are not eligible to enter.

The closing date to enter The Next Great Travel Writer 2017 is 5 February 2017.

CQC Concerned That Deaths of People with Learning Disabilities and Mental Health Problems are Not Being Learned From

The CQC has published a report into the way NHS Trusts review, investigate and learn from the deaths of patients with learning disabilities and mental health problems in their care.

They have found that opportunities to learn from patient deaths are being missed – and too many families are not being included or listened to when an investigation takes place.

Families and carers often have a poor experience of investigations and are not consistently treated with kindness, respect and honesty, despite many trusts saying that they value family involvement.

The report highlights the need for learning from deaths to be given greater priority by all those working in health and social care. Without significant change at local and national levels, it argues, opportunities to improve care for future patients will continue to be missed.

While the review found areas of good practice at individual steps in the investigation pathway, no single trust was able to demonstrate good practice across all aspects of identifying, reviewing and investigating deaths and ensuring that learning was put into practice.

With no single framework setting out what should be done to ensure that as much as possible is learned from deaths, individual providers and commissioners have developed a range of systems and processes, and practice varies widely.

Professor Sir Mike Richards, Chief Inspector of Hospitals, said: "Investigations into problems in care prior to a patient's death must improve for the benefit of families and, importantly, people receiving care in the future... This is a system-wide problem, which needs to become a national priority.

Among the report's recommendations, we call for our partners to work with us to develop a national framework, and for improvements in the way bereaved families and carers are involved in investigations.”