Photo gallery: Minister hails opening of unique training bungalow at the University of East Anglia

Norman Lamb being shown around the facilities in the new NEAT studio at UEA. Photo: Bill Smith

Norman Lamb being shown around the facilities in the new NEAT studio at UEA. Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Archant © 2013

A health minister hailed the opening of a new bungalow at the University of East Anglia today, which is full of gadgets and technology designed to help disabled and frail people to receive better care in their own homes.

The NEAT Centre (Norwich Electronic Assistive Technology), which was built in the basement at the UEA's School of Rehabilitation Sciences, was officially opened by North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb.

The recreation of the modern home, following a more than £500,000 investment, is believed to be the first facility of its kind at a university in England and is set to boost the training of student occupational therapists, physiotherapists, and speech and language therapists to help them become more familiar with advances in assistive technology.

The centre, which also received a £60,000 grant from the Norfolk and Suffolk Dementia Alliance, will also be used to help train people that work in local care homes.

The facility, which is fitted with cameras, and will use actors to play the part of frail householders, will record carers' skills as a way of helping them to improve the standard of care they deliver to people with dementia and the elderly.

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Prof Ian Harvey, executive dean for the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, said the development also paved the way for companies to trial new technology.

'This is not just designed to look like a domestic home, it has state of the art equipment. We can stream live images from the home to anywhere in the world. It is a wonderful facility,' he said.

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The bungalow is fitted with lifts to help get disabled people in and out of bed, an automatic medication dispenser, and a computer where the householder can answer their door, open windows, and turn on lights from the comfort of their armchair.

Norman Lamb added: 'Assistive technology is part of the solution to enable people to maintain independence and to live good lives where they want to be and not become dependent on the system. Care workers across our county can access this facility to improve their knowledge and understanding.'

Willie Cruikshank, of the Norfolk and Suffolk Dementia Alliance and their strategic partners at Health Education East of England were proud to have contributed funding to enable the development of the NEAT Centre.

'Although the initial concept for this innovative centre was around training students in the use of assistive technology, the state of the art facility has subsequently been identified as a multiple-use training resource.'

'With a growing number of older people living in the East, developing the dementia workforce is a priority for Health Education East of England and, in response, the Norfolk and Suffolk Dementia Alliance have embarked on delivering a pioneering experiential learning programme across the region.'

'With its realistic care-setting appearance and comprehensive video playback debriefing capability, the UEA's NEAT Centre has been selected as the site for the programme's first Dementia Care Simulator Facility and health and social students will start being put through their paces in the new year. This is a major innovation in the development of the health and social care workforce of the future and we are delighted to be working with the UEA on such an exciting programme.'

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