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No new funds for telehealth, says DH

CCGs will have to use existing funds to rollout telehealth initiatives in their local area, as there will be no additional money to bankroll the Government's commitment to expanding the use of new technology inthe NHS, says the Department of Health.

A senior DH official said they were looking at how they could alter tariffs and introduce incentives to commission telehealth and telecare services, but this would have to come from existing funds.

The development comes after experts expressed doubts about the results of the £30m Whole Systems Demonstrator pilot programme.

A study published earlier this month found a significant impact on mortality and hospital admissions, but not on costs.

But speaking at the Westminster Health Forum this week, Stephen Johnson, deputy director and head of long term conditions at the DH, argued that the business case for rolling out the services – which see patients with long-term conditions monitored remotely – is there despite findings on costs.

He said: ‘In response to that: we need to stop thinking short term. Looking ahead to the future, people will live longer. Today's teens and people in their 20s will be tomorrow's decision makers. They have grown up with technology. These people will ask ‘Why were they trying to figure this out?''

The Government's ‘3millionlives' campaign has set a target to improve the quality of life for three million patients with long-term conditions, with a cost-saving of £1.2bn, through the use of telehealth.

Asked whether the Government will provide additional funding for the rollout, Mr Johnson said: ‘Generally, no. We think it is about building a sustainable model. Let us see what solutions people can come up with and see what we can do, including tariffs and incentives in commissioning.'

A DH spokesperson added: ‘The point for the 3millionlives initiative is that we need to understand better how to overcome any perceived barriers to use and wewill be looking at these including how the money flows.'

‘As for Government funding, we have said all along that this is not about putting more money into the NHS, it is about finding ways of using the money more effectively.'

However, GPs said there are still unanswered questions around the wider rollout of telehealth.

 Dr Andrew Innes, GP in East Riding in East Yorkshire and a telehealth researcher at the University of Hull, said: ‘What would be useful to GPs is if we could have a subgroup analysis of the main conditions that benefit from the use of telehealth. We can't give it to everyone.'

‘For us it is about finding the right patient, costefficiency, clinical effectiveness and when is the right sort of time to use telehealth.'