Prime Minister Gordon Brown has pledged to offer telehealth services to 100,000 people with long term conditions in a speech outlining his plans for a more preventative and personal NHS.
Brown’s speech, designed to regain the political initiative on health, also revealed government plans to offer patients screening for heart disease, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease.
Brown told health professionals at King’s College, London that there were 15 million people in England with LTCs and many were already taking more active roles in their own care including using new technologies to allow remote monitoring of their condition via the internet or on the telephone.
He added: “Earlier this year on a visit to Southampton hospital I met Robbie who was managing his treatment for a heart condition from home, monitoring his own blood pressure and weight, and feeding his results back to his doctor.”
Brown said the system gave Robbie more freedom with the security of knowing his condition was still being checked and also meant he spent far less time in hospital, reducing the cost of his care to the NHS.
He added: “What worked for Robbie could also work for more patients – many of whom rightly want a greater say over their care, including in later life. With the right kind of NHS care and support, an active, fulfilled life should be possible for far more of us in our later years.
“So over the next few years we will give 100,000 people with long-term conditions the opportunity to manage their care in this way as ‘expert patients’.”
Brown also said that during 2008 the government would issue a “patients’ prospectus” to sets out how we will extend to all 15 million patients with a chronic or long-term condition access to a choice of ‘active patient’ or ‘care at home’ options .
Patients could also be offered a personal health budget where appropriate, he added.
He added: “Real control and power for patients – supported by clinicians and carers. More than today’s new choice of where and when you are treated, a new choice tomorrow – in partnership with your clinician – about your treatment itself.
Something made even more accessible by using NHS direct, the internet and digital TV as well as the telephone to improve support for patients who want an active part in their care.”
Brown said money had been set aside in the health budget for 2008-11 to offer screening on heart disease, kidney disease, stroke and diabetes but doctors claimed the plans were not properly thought through and criticised the government for refusing to fund initiatives on kidney disease through the Quality and Outcomes Framework and then setting up their own plans a few weeks later.
Dr Laurence Buckman, chairman of the BMA’s General Practitioner Committee said: “Ironically when GPs offered to provide new screening services just two weeks ago, the Government turned them down and threatened to withdraw the funding. In particular, they said they did not want to increase the support given to the management of patients with kidney disease. They are clearly incapable of joining the dots when it comes to health policy.”