Top service’s performance under review

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AN AWARD-winning Sheffield Council telephone service which has helped save the lives of hundreds of elderly and vulnerable people could be out-sourced to a regional call centre, or run as a joint venture with Yorkshire Ambulance Service.

The move is being proposed as managers of the City Wide Alarms service consider how best to manage increased call numbers.

Extra demand is likely due to the expansion of technology to help elderly and disabled people remain in their own homes.

A report to a Sheffield Council health and community care scrutiny committee meeting, on Monday, said: “The current service, delivered through the corporate contact centre, is to be reviewed to ensure it is delivering value for money and a safe and effective service. The options include a regional call centre or a partnership with Yorkshire Ambulance Service.”

The report by Julie Knight, acting head of Care4You, the council agency which runs City Wide Alarms, and Dr Fiona Day, consultant in Public Health Medicine, recognises the operation is one of the best in the UK.

It has achieved a national standards award and been named among the country’s top 10.

But a recent inspection found the service is falling just short of a target for answering 98.5 per cent of calls within 60 seconds and the added burden of extra calls could worsen performance.

Ms Knight said: “There is no doubt the call handling service is a good service operating well. The work taking place is to review call handling to see if there is any way in which the service can be made even better.

“This could be by working with partners and by putting in place arrangements which will be able to accommodate the increasing and changing demands. It is about development and best practice rather than replacement.”

City Wide Alarms was established 22 years ago to provide an instant response to pensioners who fall ill in their own homes.

Now the emergency service, run by Sheffield Council, receives up to 20,000 calls a month from elderly or disabled people connected to the system by a phone or panic button.