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Pioneering hi-tech health scheme to be expanded across Surrey
11:32am Monday 7th October 2013 in Local News
Surrey County Council has teamed up with local GPs to pioneer the biggest hi-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 visiting hospital as often.
So far, it has involved more than 300 carefully-selected patients of GP surgeries across North-west Surrey and Surrey Downs with long-term heart conditions and severe breathing problems, such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
But now the programme is being widened to every GP commissioning group across Surrey by Christmas, under a three-year county council contract worth up to £2.7 million.
The scheme could be extended to other serious conditions too.
The money-saving process, known as “telehealth,” involves GPs and community health workers identifying suitable patients with long–term, life-limiting conditions.
A tablet computer or smartphone is used to allow access to easy-to-use technology with a passcode.
The equipment takes vital signs such as blood oxygen levels and heart rate, and the patient answers extra questions to rate their recent health.
Then nurses from contract provider Medvivo assess the results.
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.”
Coun Few said: “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), said: “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.”
Dr Richard Barnett, a Sunbury GP and clinical lead for telehealth at North West Surrey CCG, said: “Patients tell us that they want to have more control in order to manage their own conditions at home wherever possible.”
He said: “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.
Some 15 million people in England have at least one long-term incurable condition that can be managed through medication, while around 30 million people nationally own smartphones.
The programme, launched in July with North West Surrey Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) as the county took on responsibility for public health, will start in Surrey Downs CCG in the coming weeks, and Surrey’s other four CCGs are aiming to join by the end of the year.