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GPs paid £70 a patient to boost flagging telehealth scheme

Exclusive A flagship telehealth scheme has reached fewer than a quarter of the patients it was commissioned to help - despite paying GPs £70 per referral to refer to the scheme.

NHS Gloucestershire bought 2,000 telecare units from manufacturers Tunstall last summer as part of a £5m deal to provide care remotely for patients with COPD, chronic heart failure, chronic heart disease and diabetes.

 

But latest figures obtained by Pulse suggest only 444 patients are currently receiving telecare with a further 13 patients currently referred and in the process of having equipment set up.

The figures come weeks after researchers leading a flagship Department of Health pilot study on telemedicine admitted the drive was likely to push up costs and had less than a 40% chance of being cost-effective.

Pulse revealed earlier this year that a similar scheme in NHS North Yorkshire and York was paying GPs £50 per patient to encourage them to refer patients to its telehealth scheme.

A spokesperson for NHS Gloucestershire said: ‘To support the project's implementation, NHS Gloucestershire offered GPs a referral compensation.

‘This comprises a £70 payment for each referral made, in recognition of the extra time required to set up personalised questions for each patient. GPs have also been awarded QOF points for attending training.'

Dr Paul Cundy, chair of the GPC's IT subcommittee, said: ‘Another stunning success for telehealth. This illustrates just how incompetent NHS managers can be. They are coming up against skilled sales people and signing ridiculous contracts that no GP would sign.'

The figures come as a new report paints a gloomy picture of telehealth schemes across the world.

The report ‘Accelerating Innovation: the power of the crowd' published by management consultants KPMG and the Manchester Business School said Government-led schemes were being scaled back due to ‘significant challenges'.

The report says: ‘While some projects have ultimately been successful, more often they have lost momentum after the pilot phase, collapsed under their own complexity, or become irredeemable thanks to spiraling implementation costs.'

‘Recently both the Netherlands and the UK have scaled back their eHealth initiatives, reflecting the significant challenges faced by some of the larger, government-led programmes.'

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