PA Consulting to help develop wearable for residents at risk of falls

26 July 2019 3 min. read

PA Consulting Group has announced a partnership with Essex County Council to plot the creation of a new wearable service for vulnerable citizens. The scheme will examine the potential of technology to help residents at risk of falls.

The cost of elderly people experiencing falls to the public purse has long been a bone of contention in Essex. In 2015, a district council caused a stir when it proposed a ‘lifting fee’ to soften the allegedly huge burden of this issue. Tendring District Council, in Clacton-on-Sea in Essex, came under fire after proposing a £25.92 additional annual charge to around 2,500 Essex residents who use its Careline service.

The public furore around the plans suggested an alternative course of action would be needed. However, the annual cost of falls in Essex is forecast to be over £46 million in 2019, with almost a third of the population of Essex ‘at-risk’ of falling, so inaction is not a viable option either. Now, the local authority is hoping that technology can provide the solution.

PA Consulting to help develop wearable for residents at risk of falls

Essex County Council (ECC) and global innovation and transformation consultancy PA Consulting (PA) have announced that they are working together to explore the potential of a new service using wearable technology – like socks and slippers – to help residents at risk of falls. Falls are often a preventable health issue and the partnership between ECC and PA will explore how technology can help to prevent them, with the end goal being that the ECC and PA will be able to use innovative technology for the first time in the UK with residents in Essex.

Robert Turnbull, a local government and care technology expert at PA Consulting, said, “The innovation that we are exploring has the potential to be truly lifechanging. We’re excited to be working with ECC on this project. We share a passion for care technology and its ability to make a real difference to vulnerable people and their carers.” 

The project, funded by the Local Government Association (LGA) through its Social Care digital innovation programme, will explore how wearables such as smart socks and slippers can collect real-time data on the movements and vital signs of a wearer’s lower limbs – their gait, strength and balance. This would then alert the wearer or a health or care professional to warning signs that a fall is imminent. Preventative action could then be taken to avoid the fall, such as taking some rest or drinking water.

Throughout the first discovery phase, ECC and PA will speak to organisations across the health and social care system in Essex. This will include professional and informal carers, health and care practitioners with specialist falls expertise, fallers and service delivery providers. Working with these stakeholders will help ECC and PA to establish the viability of the solution from a user, technical and service perspective. Once this is complete, the partnership’s aim is to give smart socks or slippers to Essex residents at risk of falls.

John Spence, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care at Essex County Council, added, “The impact of falls on individuals and their families can be devastating and can severely impact both their quality and length of life. Reducing falls and fractures is important for maintaining health, wellbeing and independence among older people and their carers.”