CCGs to lead huge telehealth expansion

Eleven CCGs will lead a push that will see 100,000 patients using health technologies in England in 2013, health secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced.

Sir David Nicholson: pilots will help define wider roll-out of telehealth
Sir David Nicholson: pilots will help define wider roll-out of telehealth

The devices will be offered to patients with long-term conditions in seven areas across the country.

Mr Hunt said the UK would become a 'world leader' on health technology.

The announcement comes after the new 'NHS Mandate' published yesterday called for greater use of GP consultations over the internet and online access to records by 2015.

Telehealth devices aim to reduce the need for GP or hospital visits by allowing patients to manage their health independently at home. Devices include BP monitors, pulse oximeters, spirometers and weighing scales.

Seven pathfinder areas, including an initial 11 CCGs, will sign contracts with industry suppliers  early next year. It is the first step in the DH's plan to roll out telehealth and telecare devices to 3m people over the next few years.

Mr Hunt said technology could free up consultation time and save the NHS money.

He said: 'People with long-term conditions see doctors and nurses more than most of us - seven out of every ten pounds spent on the health budget go towards supporting them. I want to free people with long-term conditions from the constant merry-go-round of doctors’ surgeries and hospitals.'

Telehealth to be 'vigorously' promoted
David Nicholson, chief executive of the NHS Commissioning Board (NHSCB), said: 'The seven pathfinders that are offering this new technology to patients will give the NHSCB important insight into how best to extend this option to any patient managing prolonged ill health or a chronic condition.

He said board plans to 'promote vigorously' the use of telehealth in England from April.

Michelle Mitchell, charity director general at Age UK said: 'Whilst telehealth is not a replacement for face-to-face appointments and direct care, it could give many people a real chance of taking control of their health and improving wellbeing.'

Results from a DH-funded RCT of telehealth published in June found the devices could lower hospital admissions by 18% and reduce deaths by 46%.

But a later analysis by the London School of Economics found the health-monitoring devices cost around £92,000 per year of good quality life gained – three times the level NICE recommends as cost effective.

Researchers said equipment costs needed to fall by up to 80% before the planned national telehealth roll-out would become cost effective.

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