GPs back expanded role for telecare

GPs have backed a wider roll-out of telecare technology as key to tackling the 'big challenge' of patients with long-term conditions.

Telecare can cut the cost of long-term conditions care (Photograph: Philips Electronics UK Limited)
Telecare can cut the cost of long-term conditions care (Photograph: Philips Electronics UK Limited)

GPs who commissioned regional telecare schemes told an RCGP event in London last week that the profession must adopt 'a new mindset'.

They argued that GPs must learn to use telecare to improve care for patients with chronic illness and to cut NHS costs.

The comments came as the DoH revealed plans to announce preliminary findings from the world's largest RCT of telecare later this month.

Large-scale rollout of telecare in the NHS has been held back by doubts over the evidence base and a lack of funding. Results from the RCT, launched by the DoH in 2007, may help convince commissioners to invest.

Opening the conference, RCGP chairwoman Dr Clare Gerada said: 'We now have the technology. We need to support primary care to make care for patients better.'

She admitted there was a 'natural reluctance' among many GPs to accept new ways of working but said this must be overcome to improve the quality of care.

Speaking to GP before the event, Dr Gerada said telecare 'has to add value' to be accepted by the NHS.

In a message to the conference, health secretary Andrew Lansley said telecare was 'vital' to the future of healthcare in England.

Stephen Johnson, DoH deputy director of long-term conditions, said: 'I think we need to start looking at it from the challenges facing the NHS. There are 15 million people with long-term conditions. These patients account for 70 per cent of health spend.'

'This cost must be lowered, and telecare can help reduce hospital admissions,' he said.

Middlesex GP Dr Nick Robinson, associate clinical director for NHS Direct, said: 'In 30 years' time, perhaps even 10 years, we won't be able to manage without telecare. That's the change we're looking to promote.'

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