Published on Thursday 13 October 2011 00:01
A £5 MILLION telehealth system with the potential to save around £1,000 per patient per year has been largely ignored by NHS boards, the public spending watchdog has warned.
Telehealth is designed to provide remote electronic healthcare, particularly for hard-to-reach areas. But Audit Scotland’s review found that the system is generally not considered an option when NHS boards are planning or redesigning services.
An estimated £4.7m has been allocated to telehealth initiatives since 2006. Economic modelling work suggests the home monitoring of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease could save NHS boards around £1,000 a year for each patient.
However, Audit Scotland found limited coverage in local delivery plans and only half refer to telehealth specifically.
Over a third of the medical directors interviewed did not know if the Scottish Centre for Telehealth (SCT), established in 2006 to support NHS boards to develop telehealth, was performing its core functions well.
Half of medical directors felt that the integration of SCT and NHS24 had no impact on the delivery of telehealth within the board.
Auditor General for Scotland, Robert Black said: “The NHS in Scotland is facing serious pressures from the ageing population and increasing numbers of people with long-term health conditions such as diabetes and respiratory illnesses.
“Telehealth could help to provide a range of services efficiently and effectively.”
Health secretary Nicola Sturgeon said: “Telehealth has a pivotal role to play in delivering efficient and effective care to people of all ages across our country.”
The Royal College of Nursing Scotland backed the auditor’s call. Director Theresa Fyffe said: “Investment has been inconsistent and a survey of our members last year, found that less than 20 per cent use telehealth.”
Read the article on Scotsman.com