The UTOPIA study was undertaken in late 2016 and early 2017. It engaged with over 150 Adult Social Care authorities in England. The research, led by Dr John Woolham at King’s College London, aimed to examine the role of and momentum behind telecare services after the uncertainties that had arisen from the outcomes of the Whole System Demonstrator programme. The full research team comprised:

Dr John Woolham, King’s College, London

Dr Nicole Steils, King’s College, London

Dr Malcolm Fisk, De Montfort University, Leicester

Professor Kirsty Forsyth, Queen Margaret University College, Edinburgh

Jeremy Porteus, Housing Learning and Improvement Network

Headline Findings and Crucial Questions

Headline findings from the research include the fact that local authorities continue to invest in telecare despite (and partly because of) public sector austerity. But there was great variation between authorities both regarding the extent of investment and regarding many facets of service design and management. In this context, questions arise about how variation might (or should) be addressed and as to what role telecare might play in the future.

These questions loom especially large as attention is given to the necessity for services to transfer from old analogue to newer digital networks – a matter that could (if services were rethought from a more user oriented perspective) lead to realisation of the promise of those digital networks to empower users in new ways. That empowerment, only touched on lightly in the research, could include the building (for users) of health literacy, greater self management of health conditions and the adoption of healthier lifestyles – matters of great concern, of course, to the Telehealth Quality Group.

It follows that there are crucial questions to be asked about the place of telecare at the social care and health ‘interface’. At the moment telecare is, to a large extent, trapped in social care. That will change – and the outcomes of this research will help us to build the foundations for changes that are necessary.

The research report is to be found here: