Preparing the Ostara telecare service for the digital switchover

Digital audit and service improvement plan for Ostara


Vulnerable adults are at risk of not receiving emergency assistance when the national analogue telephone network is switched off

The challenge

In 2025, the  Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) will be replaced with a digital ‘all-IP’ network. Voice calls and data will no longer be sent via traditional point-to-point connections. Instead, they will be sent as ‘data packets’ over digital networks.

This transition has the potential to compromise the safety and reliability of existing telecare and social alarm systems, including pendant alarms, fall detectors and door entry systems. Legacy systems such as PSTN are slowly being replaced by IP based solutions.

The Ostara 24/7 telecare service is provided by Your Homes Newcastle (YHN), Newcastle City Council’s arms-length housing association.

Ostara is well regarded, particularly in respect of the critical response service it provides. The customer offering has also benefited from continuous improvements to the core operation.

However, the underlying technology for Ostara has seen little change. Many of the service’s end-users rely on analogue devices for their safety.

Solving the problem

Urban Foresight worked with YHN’s technology team to undertake an audit of the telecare service, including the enabling technology stock and infrastructure to plan for the digital switchover.

The audit considered:

  • critical risks and potential failure points associated with existing systems and services;
  • opportunities to make the transition to digital systems to make the service more person-centred, proactive, predictive and efficient;
  • options to secure upgrades and reliable maintenance of legacy analogue systems.

Urban Foresight engaged with YHN’s key customers, partners, and suppliers to better understand current and future needs.

Interviews were also held with other telecare providers in the UK to better understand their technology roadmaps and emerging capabilities.

Key outcomes

The audit provided an opportunity to identify improvements to the existing Ostara service. It also helped YHN better understand future customer needs and to explore new commercial offerings.

Urban Foresight worked closely with YHN to translate these opportunities into a bespoke action plan.

The action plan identified a portfolio of 28 operational and service improvement projects. These were prioritised in line with budgetary and operational capacity constraints, as well as the wider analogue replacement programme for YHN and the council.

A structured contract management review process was developed to support YHN’s engagement with the incumbent system supplier. This was tailored to Ostara’s priority requirements.

A “horizon watching” capability was also set out. This established a basis for YHN to monitor the telecare market and digital technology developments to identify, develop and test new solutions with customers.

All recommendations were made with consideration for Ostara’s TSA accreditation, and the importance of this in continuing to deliver a safe and effective Telecare service.