Contact&Connect at NAEPS 2023
We were pleased to be asked to speak at the National Association of Equipment Providers (NAEPS) national conference this year, about Contact&Connect: Community Loan Equipment, and the impact it’s having not only driving equipment returns, but also the green agenda.
The conference was the first time we had seen the full range of equipment that is prescribed to people for their health and social care needs. All types of different beds, mattresses, innovative pressure relief items, wheelchairs, hoists, slings – all laid out for the delegates to discuss and explore. Usually we just see the equipment as line items on our dashboards, confirming they have been returned for recycling and reuse, so it was really interesting to see them in person and understand the value they bring to people.
Contact&Connect was somewhat different – other than our ‘Net Zero’ deckchair and Carbon Calculator matching game, we didn’t have anything to display. Automated telephony is hard to show in real life, but we were able to have some great conversations with delegates nonetheless.
Our main stage session with Kim Noble, Clinical Equipment Advisor (and much more) from County Durham and Darlington (CD&D) NHS FT was well attended by councils, health colleagues and a number of the big equipment providers. Billed as a ‘Collaboration Project Focused on the Green Agenda’, we discussed how CD&D had started with the Contact&Connect approach and the impact it had.
Kim was quite clear about the success of the project – increasing equipment returns by between 3-5% in 10 months (c4,000 items), as well as the impact it has had on the wider system. Due to the ‘overwhelming success’ of the calls, where Kim stated “we did not anticipate it would work so well”, she has had to work with her provider to employ an additional admin assistant, driver as well as procure a second van.
Working on the detail of items being returned with CD&D, we estimate that the value of the kit driven back into the system directly by the automated telephony approach, is circa £325,000. So despite the changes to the process and the additional staff required, the benefits still far outweigh the cost.
Speaking with NAEPS delegates, many suggested that they have backlogs of kit to collect, and to deploy Contact&Connect would require business process redesign before they could manage the influx of equipment the calls can generate. Having worked with a number of councils with Contact&Connect: CLE, we completely agree.
In response to the evidence we are seeing on the ground, we are adapting the recommended approach to put less strain on the system; reducing the frequency of calls from quarterly to six monthly, automatically connecting callers who have kit to return into call centres at off-peak times, pro-actively sending those people who can return the kit themselves a map link to local drop off points and looking again at the data – to ensure that those people getting the calls are not duplicated or more easily dealt with in the review process.
Having launched Contact&Connect: CLE nearly two years ago, it is really interesting to us how different each partner’s service is. How we deploy the system is dependent on whether there is a provider partner or if the service is run in house; how big the geography is; whether it is predominantly rural or urban; and how well the rest of their system is working.
Moving on to the Green Agenda, our session covered the emerging work we have been doing with Sunderland City Council and others, on calculating the carbon footprint of the equipment being driven back into the system. Using NHS England’s carbon calculator for walking aids, we have adapted the calculator to give an indicative carbon value to all community loan equipment based on size, weight and materials.
We estimate that to date we have saved over 740,000 KG CO2 – equivalent to 52 flights around the world or the manufacture of 30,000+ pairs of crutches. Delegates suggested that whilst the business process and financial savings were the biggest drivers for commissioning such a service now, carbon savings were rapidly coming up the agenda – particularly from an NHS perspective, with the incoming procurement focus on carbon reduction plans.
NAEPS was a great first outing for us into the world of equipment providers, OTs and CLE specialists. We met a number of our partners for the first time in the flesh, including Calderdale Council – whose C&C: CLE service actually went live at the event, and were congratulated by a number of people for creating a service to so simply, effectively and efficiently drive the return of equipment.
One delegate simply said,“It’s a no-brainer, surely every council should be doing this!”. We’re hoping that the evidence from our partners to date, attendance at NAEPS and conversations with some of the bigger providers will make that the case in due course.