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Telehealth expansion to be headed by CCGs

GPs to secure better use of technology for people with long-term conditions

Adrian O'Dowd

Friday, 16 November 2012

GPs on clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) will help lead on better use of technology to help patients with long-term conditions, it has been announced.

The government said it wanted 100,000 people with long-term conditions across England to benefit in the next year from new health technologies from telehealth – the use of electronic information and technology to help people manage their health independently without the need of seeing a GP or going to hospital.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced a roll out of telehealth, which follows the launch of the NHS Mandate earlier this week in which the government said significant progress would be made towards three million people being able to benefit from telehealth by 2017.

Mr Hunt said seven ‘pathfinders’ – including 11 CCGs initially and more once they are formed along with local authority organisations – would agree contracts with industry suppliers that will mean that 100,000 people will be able to benefit from telehealth in the course of next year.

The government claims this will mean England will become second only to the US in terms of being the leading centre for telehealth.

Tenders for the work are being developed and the NHS Commissioning Board will lead on promoting telehealth from April next year.

Findings published last year from the Whole System Demonstrator programme – a research project funded by the Department of Health to find out how technology can help people manage their own health and maintain independence – showed that using telehealth could result in a 20% reduction in emergency admissions, a 15% reduction in A&E visits and a 45% reduction in mortality.

Mr Hunt 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.

“Technology can help people manage their condition at home, free up a lot of time and save the NHS money. In a world where technology increasingly helps us manage our social and professional lives, it seems logical that it should also help people manage their health.”

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

“Working closely with the local commissioners involved and informed by their experience, we plan to promote vigorously the use of telehealth across England from next April.”

Michelle Mitchell, Age UK’s charity director general, said: “Talk of the ever-growing costs of an ageing society and the increasing number of people living with long-term conditions misses a fundamental point - poor health and use of services are not always inevitable.

“We welcome this strong commitment to self-management of long-term conditions. 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.”

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