FRAIL pensioners living in older people’s homes in Hampshire are set to lose their emergency alarms as part of cost-cutting measures.

Elderly people who live in council sheltered accommodation can currently call wardens to their homes by pulling a cord or pressing a “panic” button.

Now, under £4m cutbacks, Hampshire County Council is replacing those alarms with a “telecare” pendant they can wear round their necks – but is slashing the number of people entitled to have one.

Only those deemed in the greatest need will receive one, meaning that hundreds of elderly people across the county could lose the ability to summon help.

The new system will contact a “monitoring centre” that uses state-of-the-art technology to detect if someone is in trouble.

It includes automatic fall alarms where the user does not need to press the button to trigger an alert, devices to discourage dementia sufferers from leaving the house at night and sensors that can tell if a frail person is up, and active or not, in their home.

A nominated person such as a carer or family member would then be contacted.

Last night it was unclear whether the new system would threaten wardens’ jobs.

Older people’s campaigners have condemned the move, saying it will take away peace of mind for isolated people in the community.

Age Concern Hampshire chairman Rick Smith said: “It offers reassurance that they are safe. If you are alone or an elderly person who does not receive many visitors, it is a security blanket to feel someone will come and help.”

However, adult social care boss Cllr Liz Fairhurst insists the new “telecare” system will offer more effective help to those who qualify for it.

She said: “Our priority has been, and always will be, to ensure people can access the right care and support.

“The current changes being made around the provision of community alarms are to ensure that the most vulnerable residents receive a quality service that best meets their needs.

“In this way, we can maximise and target resources to where they are most needed, and make sure that services remain sustainable for the long term, rather than simply plugging funding gaps with one-off reserves.

“With unprecedented pressure on our budgets, one of the biggest challenges is meeting the increasing demand for social care from Hampshire’s ageing population, which is growing by about 1,000 each year.

“This is why we’re changing the way care is provided in the longer term, to offer a wider range of services that help people live independently for as long as possible.”