Long-term sick to get benefit of distant monitoring

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THOUSANDS of patients are set to benefit from devices allowing them to have their conditions monitored from home.

Focusing on those with long-term conditions, telehealth aims to improve their quality of life, reduce hospital admissions and save NHS cash.

The technology allows patients to give readings via their telephone lines of vital signs including blood pressure and blood oxygen levels. In some cases the approach can offer help, including telephone advice and post-crisis support.

In Yorkshire, health chiefs estimate 11,000 new patients a year could get short-term benefits from telehealth and it could help 50,000 longer term.

The technology has been available for more than a decade but health chiefs across the region want to expand its use as they seek savings by reducing demand for hospital care.

John Farenden, director in Ernst & Young’s health advisory practice in Leeds, said the technology could not be introduced in isolation and it was important to consider how the whole health system needed to re-adjust, including changing the way staff worked.

“The message that we consistently give is that clinical staff have to be involved right from the outset. It is their project and they have got to own the change and recognise their responsibility and obligations,” he said.

“It’s a combination of what is good clinical practice, what is safe, what is appropriate for patients and what makes best use of resources.”

Health chiefs in Hull are among those exploring the wider use of telehealth. Around 300 patients in the city use it for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and heart failure but officials are planning to invest a further £4m over three years amid estimates it could save the NHS in the city £2m a year.

In Barnsley, the scale of long term illness means more than 60,000 people – around a quarter of the population – live with chronic conditions. Around 210 people with COPD and heart failure currently use telehealth but hundreds more are likely to get access following an ongoing a procurement exercise.

Doncaster plans to expand telehealth after the success of a £210,000 pilot involving around 120 patients which began two years ago. Managers say emergency hospital admissions have fallen 25 per cent and lengths of hospital stays have also declined.