A CARE home is the first in Scotland to trial technology that aims to allow relatives to visit loved ones freely and could also prevent the spread of Covid-19 in universities, offices and potentially even schools.

It uses geofencing technology which create a virtual boundary around a building, tracking movement into the home and can determine if visitors and staff can safely enter, based on level of risk.

Once inside, the technology monitors and alerts managers to ‘hot spots’ where social distancing may be being breached by staff, visitors and residents.

The developers, Wyld Networks, are now also working to incorporate the system with rapid, on-the-spot tests for Covid-19, which they hope could give a result with 95% accuracy in around 20 minutes and  could help solve the “huge emotional issue” which has seen families unable to visit relatives inside homes for months.

READ MORE: Hundreds of care homes banned from visits while others miss government deadline 

Castlehill Care Home in Inverness is taking part in a pilot of the technology, with early results expected in mid-October.

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Alan White of HHVL (Highland Health Ventures) which is overseeing the project with NHS Highland, hope to eventually bring it to other care homes owned by Morar Living (part of the Simply UK Group) in areas including Bridge of Weir and Musselburgh.

He said: “The technology in a nutshell, puts a virtual fence around the perimeter of a building, which we have done at Castlehill Care Home, including the grounds but that could easily also be a university campus or a stadium, it’s highly scalable.

“It depends on users having downloaded a (free) app. A s soon as they enter the geofence zone, the app clicks. However, it is GPDR compliant and doesn’t engage outwith the zone.

“They are picked up by the tracking mechanism which allows them to check in safely.

“What it allows the care home to do is to really, accurately record and manage where people are in the care home.

“The manager or perhaps an admin person has access to a dashboard. If they have an issue they can react very quickly.”

READ MORE: New alarm over Covid control in Scotland's care homes 

Mr White believes the technology could allow care home to safely manage relative visits.

Public health directors in several of Scotland’s health boards have deemed it still too risky to allow families of people in care homes to see them inside including in NHS Lanarkshire and Tayside.

He said: “It also allows staff to be able to say yes we have recently been tested, which would be the case because they are using the NHS testing system  process.

“But what it also allows is for visitors to come into the care home more safely.

“At the moment, that is being done on the basis of trust largely.

“But some of them will have had a recent test and they can put this into the app and it records it.

“What we are now planning to incorporate is rapid, point of care testing so that if someone turns up, not having had a test they can be tested on the spot by a nurse and wait 20 minutes and they will a 95% accurate test - it won’t be 100% but it will be a very good indication.

“Particularly if we incorporate the point-of-care testing I think it would be big step forward in allowing families to visit relatives in the homes - which is a huge emotional issue.

“I think it could really facilitate that.”

READ MORE: Dementia hit families who saved all their lives at mercy of care system 

Mr White says the cost of the technology is likely to be higher while prototypes are still being perfected but believes it would not be expensive for homes, used on an ongoing basis.

He says it could also prove helpful for universities, which are currently an area of high concern as students return for the new term in a system of blended learning.

New figures show nearly half of new Covid infections in Scotland are now being detected among under 25s.

Mr White said: “One of the main challenges is getting people back into work, back into education. Hospitality too.

“The technology we are developing would certainly help make college and university campuses safer and possibly also schools although we are not quite sure how it would work in this context.

“The app is free and ideally the students would be tested, otherwise it’s based on trust.”

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