Emergency pagers contract ‘needs modifying urgently’

Westfields - the headquarters of Cheshire East Council.
Westfields - the headquarters of Cheshire East Council.

By James Connolly

A vulnerable woman in Alsager was left “at risk during the night” after a pager that sends alerts to carers failed.

The woman was told the device, that sends alerts to a care company when activated, could only be repaired or replaced in daytime hours because of the terms of a contract between the firm and Cheshire East Council.

Engineers were not able to fix hers until the following day.

The contract between the authority and care company Welbeing said that carers will attend at any time if the pager was pressed, but stipulated that engineers could only visit users’ homes between 9am and 5pm to repair or replace devices.

Alsager Lib Dem Coun Rod Fletcher criticised the contract, explaining that the delay caused the Alsager resident “distress” and meant that a relative had to sit by her bed all night.

He raised the issue with the portfolio holder for adult social care and health at a Cheshire East Cabinet meeting last Tuesday.

“Care Assist pagers are worn by vulnerable people to press in an emergency. They have been used for many years and have saved countless lives,” he said. “In view of a recent case in Alsager, where the pager failed late in the afternoon, and due to Cheshire East’s terms of contract with the company concerned, it could not be repaired or replaced until the following day. This placed a vulnerable person at risk during the night.

“Can Cheshire East Council, as a matter of urgency, modify the current contract to give cover 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for engineers to repair defective pagers, which the firm says other councils do to ensure vulnerable people are not in future left overnight without a usable pager?”

Cabinet member Laura Jeuda, responsible for adult social care and health, told Coun Fletcher she agreed that this was “not a satisfactory arrangement” and that she had asked the authority’s director of commissioning to look at the issue.

A week after the meeting, Coun Fletcher told the Chronicle that the authority had been in touch with the woman concerned to say that it was “looking at” 24-hour cover for engineers to attend, and that a spare pager would be supplied in the meantime.

Coun Fletcher said: “They also said that an engineer will be out to see them to complete another assessment. They said they would set up this spare pager, but they can’t do that every time one fails.”