Health and social carers could one day welcome a new type of colleague into treatment rooms and care home: robots. An ageing population and other pressures in the care industry combined with skills shortages mean humanoid robots could be the answer to plugging gaps.
Academics claim that robots could reduce pressures on care homes and hospitals by providing services like taking tablets and offering companionship. Researchers from Middlesex University and the University of Bedfordshire are currently taking part in a £2m project to develop robots, known as Pepper Robots.
They are designed to coexist with humans and are able to communicate through speech and detect early signs a patient might be ill. Similar models are already in use in Japan, a country with an ageing population, where they are used to lift patients and serve food and there are plans for the robots to eventually be tested in the UK.
'It sounds like a plot from a sci-fi movie'
Victoria Short, managing director of Randstad public services, believes technology can complement the work done by humans to help improve services and alleviate pressures on the NHS.
“Visions of robots in care homes might seem like a plot from a sci-fi movie but technology like this is a plausible and exciting development," Victoria said.
"We live in an ageing society where community care is paramount to relieving pressure elsewhere and we should embrace technology that improves services. One of the important aspects of this report is how robots can add to expert human care and not replace it."
"Technology can play an important role in performing everyday tasks like reminding patients to take medication and one of the impressive features about Pepper Robots is that they can detect early signs of illness.
“They would also help tackle the silent strain on people in care: loneliness. But when it comes to the emotional element of social care only humans can form the important emotional bond between carer and patient.”
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