Country's biggest telehealth programme to be extended

Surrey GPs target patients with long-term conditions as part of £2.7m programme

Just three months after the first person was enrolled onto the country’s largest telehealth scheme it has been announced that the project is to be rolled out to every GP commissioning group in the area.

In July Surrey County Council teamed up with local GPs to pioneer the biggest high-tech scheme of its kind in the country to help patients manage serious conditions.

The new programme gives patients user-friendly electronic equipment to monitor their own long-term problems from home rather than having to visit hospital.

So far it has involved more than 300 patients from GP surgeries across north west Surrey and Surrey Downs who suffer from long-term heart conditions and severe breathing problems, such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

It has been shown that telehealth enables patients to take on more responsibility for the management of their illness by allowing closer engagement with their clinicians and empowering them to make decisions about the management of their illness with confidence

Now the programme is being widened to every GP commissioning group across the county under a three-year county council contract worth up to £2.7m. The scheme could also be extended to cover other serious conditions.

The programme involves GPs and community health workers identifying suitable patients with long-term, life-limiting conditions. They are then given a tablet computer or smartphone. This equipment monitors and records vital signs such as blood oxygen levels and heart rate and the patient answers extra questions to rate their recent health. This information is then reviewed by nurses from contract provider, Medvivo. Any significant changes will automatically raise an alert and the nurses arrange suitable follow-up care.

Surrey County Council’s cabinet member for adult social care, Mel Few, said: “This innovative programme is a great way of helping people with serious conditions to monitor their health with expert support.

“Giving patients dedicated care that reduces their need to visit hospital spares both them and the public purse. We look forward to widening this programme across the county.”

Dr Andrew Sharpe, the project’s lead GP at Surrey Downs Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), added: “We are only just beginning our involvement, but early indications show participating patients from other areas feel more in control of their condition. This is important because, without the equipment, these patients might become anxious and worsen their condition if they cannot judge how serious it is.”

We are only just beginning our involvement, but early indications show participating patients from other areas feel more in control of their condition. This is important because, without the equipment, these patients might become anxious and worsen their condition if they cannot judge how serious it is

And Dr Richard Barnett, a Sunbury GP and clinical lead for telehealth at North West Surrey CCG, told BBH : “Patients tell us they want to have more control in order to manage their own conditions at home wherever possible.

“It has been shown that telehealth enables patients to take on more responsibility for the management of their illness by allowing closer engagement with their clinicians and empowering them to make decisions about the management of their illness with confidence.

“Telehealth involves family doctors and community nurses working collaboratively with hospital staff and Surrey County Council – a great example of joined-up working and more effective use of resources.”

Department of Health research estimates that using telehealth could result in a 20% reduction in emergency hospital admissions and a 15% reduction in Accident and Emergency visits. An emergency hospital trip can cost the NHS more than £2,500.

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