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NHS England drops plan to have 100,000 telehealth users this year



NHS England has given up on attempts to get 100,000 patients using telehealth this year, despite health secretary Jeremy Hunt pledging to meet this target as part of plans to boost roll-out of the technology across England.

NHS England said it had decided to ditch the plans after reviewing progress at seven pathfinder areas that were selected to spearhead delivery of the Government’s flagship telehealth programme.

Mr Hunt announced last November that the seven pathfinders were agreeing contracts with telehealth providers so that 100,000 patients would benefit from telehealth this year, in a bid to kickstart the 3millionlives initiative – which aims to have three million people managed with telehealth by 2017.

But after conducting a review of the pathfinders, NHS England said it had decided to ‘radically overhaul the delivery model’ and focus on other areas delivering telehealth through the 3millionlives programme.

The news comes after an investigation by Pulse earlier this year revealed pathfinder areas were struggling to get started, with commissioners uncertain about the cost-effectiveness of telehealth following disappointing results from the Government’s Whole System Demonstrator pilots of telehealth.

In September, one pathfinder CCG announced it would be scrapping the initiative because of concerns over the costs.

An NHS spokesperson said: ‘The expectation of 100,000 patients benefiting from telehealth by the end of 2013 was intended as an ambition rather than a target, and was based on the old “Pathfinder” delivery model introduced under the Department of Health in 2012.

‘Following the recent period of NHS transition, and in taking on the leadership of the 3millionlives programme, NHS England has recognised and acknowledged that focusing solely on the seven originally identified “Pathfinder” sites is no longer the right model for delivery – a view shared unanimously by our stakeholders. 

‘We have therefore, with their help, radically overhauled the delivery model, moving to a model where we focus on where energy already exists locally for delivery of 3millionlives, so that we can harness it and build upon it.

‘In light of this, this we are identifying a new and rigorous set of metrics for 3millionlives, which will form an integral part of the 3millionlives Delivery Plan for 2014–17.’