Telehealth could save NHS £1.2bn in five years

Government minister tells conference widespread deployment is key

The NHS could save a massive £1.2billion in five years through the widespread deployment of telehealth solutions, a government minister claimed this week.

Paul Burstow, Minister for Care Services, made the statement in his keynote speech at this week’s King’s Fund International Congress on Telehealth and Telecare in London.

He told delegates: “Telehealth and telecare is about managing long-term conditions better and preventing small problems from developing into major incidents. If this is the way we approach telehealth and telecare, then the possibilities are truly enormous.

“There will be a significant cost benefit for the NHS. By keeping people out of hospital, reducing the time they are there, and being more effective with then use of NHS services, we predict we could save the NHS £1.2billion over five years.”

By keeping people out of hospital, reducing the time they are there, and being more effective with then use of NHS services, we predict we could save the NHS £1.2billion over five years

He was talking after the announcement of the Department of Health’s (DH) 3millionlives campaign, which aims to roll out assistive technology to around a fifth of the patients in the UK who have at least one long-term condition, such as diabetes, COPD and heart disease.

The initiative was launched following the publication of the initial results from the DH’s Whole System Demonstrator (WSD) project, the largest randomised controlled trial of telehealth in the world. It revealed that telehealth helped to reduce A&E visits among those with long-term conditions by 15%, reduced emergency hospital admissions by 20% and reduced elective admissions by 14%. More importantly, the trial, which involved 6,000 people over three UK sites, recorded a 45% drop in mortality rates, and constituted an 8% reduction in tariff cost.

But there were concerns that a lack of understanding and support among NHS and social care workers, and the upfront cost of the technology, could create a barrier to widespread deployment. This led to the signing, earlier this year, of a concordat by the four main trade organisations representing the telehealth and telecare industries – The Telecare Services Association, the Association of British Healthcare Industries, Medilink UK and Intellect.

The formal code of practice states: “We want to move beyond the current situation where a few thousand people are benefitting from telehealth to one where millions of lives can be improved with the help of technology-assisted services.

We want to move beyond the current situation where a few thousand people are benefitting from telehealth to one where millions of lives can be improved with the help of technology-assisted services

“The concordat signals a commitment towards planning the adoption and use, at scale and pace, of assistive technologies to improve the lives of people with long-term conditions on a more pro-active, longer-term basis where this offers demonstrable value for money and high standards for patients.

“Working together over the next five years we will seek to establish and deliver a campaign that creates the right environment to support large-scale adoption of telehealth and telecare.

Burstow said: “This new approach is not about the technology. It is about a revolution in personalised healthcare that can improve the lives of three million people, increase their independence and dignity as well as reduce the time they spend in hospital.

Companies