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2011: Challenges faced – and met!

The year 2011 has been a fascinating and challenging one for consortium members of the INDEPENDENT project as we sought to build on the successful ground work laid in the first year of the project. In year one the INDEPENDENT vision was articulated and projected to both service users and service providers and what we hoped to achieve and how we hope to achieve it were worked on and refined. Moving forward, year two was the year when this vision (and the planning that went with it) had to be translated into systems that could deliver what service users and providers told us they needed from our project: robust, simple, effective solutions that would help elderly people maintain their independence wherever they chose to live. Are we in a position to pilot these systems? After a lot of work, we think we are!

The organisational difficulties of managing a project that encompasses 6 pilot sites with contributors based in 8 different European countries has been met by fortnightly telephone conferences, buttressed by regular telephone conversations to help all participants stay up to speed. The project meetings hosted variously by the teams from Milton Keynes, Dublin and Trikala were challenging for some of us as changing economic realities in Europe affected project participants as much as anyone else, but they were invaluable both in keeping the project work well defined and in fostering a greater spirit of understanding and togetherness between the project teams as we saw the project coming together.

The pilot sites had various challenges to overcome, needing to balance finite resources of money and time against the demands of the project and the needs to be met. The intricacies of marrying up technical developments with the realities of the health and social care systems they were designed to enhance were at times considerable and required great flexibility and a willingness to think and rethink from all parties. We all learnt a lot about both the needs to push ourselves to make sure we could attain what we had planned and, at times, the need to compromise and find a better way when occasionally what had seemed to be promising roads turned out to be dead ends.

So, have we got to where we need to be? We believe so. As we come to the end of the second year, the sites have either begun or are poised to begin the pilots of their various systems that they hope will help realise the vision of helping elderly people live independently in their homes. Will that vision be realised? The next year will tell. But in the project we have been encouraged by a year in which we have overcome many challenges and reached important objectives. We have been encouraged by what we have achieved working together to get to where we are now, we have been encouraged by the ‘Beyond Silos conference (see report on page 6) in which our vision of using ICT services to better integrate care was endorsed enthusiastically from both the podium and the floor. Most of all we have been encouraged by the response of people for whom our services have been designed. Read where the pilot sites have got to and what the local users think about what is being done for them on pages 3-5. And look out for our next newsletter in summer 2012 for the first news of how the live pilots are progressing. It will be worth waiting for!