by Tom Snell, Jose-Luis Fernandez and Julien Forder

For thousands of dependent adults in England, equipment and adaptations play a vital role by allowing people to live independently in their own homes. Interventions vary from simple devices, such as grab rails, to major adaptations, such as stairlifts and bespoke bath and shower rooms. While the range of benefits attributed to these interventions are well documented, both in terms of quality of life improvements and – in some cases – significant reductions in the need for health and social care services, few studies provide an overall picture of the benefits to the state and to the recipients of aids and adaptations in England.

Using available evidence from research literature and user surveys, we constructed a quantitative model to provide estimates of the average costs and benefits associated with use of equipment and adaptations within a dependent older population according to a range of scenarios.

Under the central scenario, which incorporated a conservative set of assumptions about the impact of aids and adaptations on quality of life and service utilisation, the results suggest that every pound invested in equipment and adaptations leads to reductions in the demand for other health and social care services worth 58 pence on average (including both state and private costs). In addition, the services lead to improvements in the quality of life of the dependent person worth £1.52 per pound invested. According to a more pessimistic scenario, reductions in the demand for health and social care equate to 26 pence per pound invested, with quality of life improvements valued at £1.38. According to the optimistic scenario of the model, reductions in the demand for health and social care are estimated at £1.08 per pound invested and quality of life gains at £1.72.

Low-level and preventative services are often an early target for budget cuts in times of fiscal austerity. However, as the present analysis demonstrates, reducing investment in these services can have significant implications for the demand for other health and social care resources. Taking into account the value of improvements in quality of life and reductions in the demand for care, the results in the study suggest that adaptive technologies generate important net social benefits in all of the scenarios explored. This is despite the fact that, due to the lack of appropriate evidence for use in a quantitative model, the analysis could not factor in other likely benefits, such as those for caregivers. 

To view the full article, please see PSSRU Discussion Paper 2831 (PDF).

The research in this report was supported by a grant from Stannah and the British Healthcare Trades Association. The views expressed are those of the research team.