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Government looks to reboot telehealth in the NHS



NHS England is launching a major new drive on telehealth and telecare with a series of pilots testing out new devices on the elderly and people with long-term conditions.

The first wave of the NHS Innovation ‘Test Beds’ scheme – involving collaborations with technology companies including Verily (formerly Google Life Sciences), IBM and Philips – will run at seven pilot programmes in different areas of England.

One of the schemes, in the west of England, will look at equipping patients with diabetes with remote monitoring and coaching technology to try to help them manage their condition better.

Elsewhere, a pilot in Rochdale is looking at use of telecare and remote devices to deliver more proactive care to elderly people at risk from critical complications of conditions like COPD and heart failure.

And in Birmingham a project is using technology and apps to help people at risk of serious mental illness to manage their condition, and get specialist help in a crisis.

The programme is a joint effort by NHS England, the Department of Health’s Office for Life Science and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Announcing the scheme at the World Economic Forum in Davos, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens was expected to say: ‘Over the next decade, major health gains won’t just come from a few “miracle cures”, but also from combining diverse breakthroughs in fields such as biosensors, medtech and drug discovery, mobile communications and AI computing.

‘Our new NHS Test Beds programme aims to cut through the hype and test the practical benefits for patients when we bring together some of these most promising technologies in receptive environments inside the world’s largest public, integrated health service.’

The launch comes after NHS England ditched an earlier Government programme aimed at getting 100,000 patients managed with telehealth by 2013, following a review of the impact of the scheme at seven pathfinder sites.

A Pulse investigation had shown the pathfinders struggled to get their schemes off the ground amid concerns about the cost-effectiveness of telehealth.