A pioneering telephone-based care management programme is expanding to cover patients with a wider range of conditions.

Birmingham OwnHealth, which is run by NHS Birmingham East and North together with NHS Direct and Pfizer Health Solutions, offers telephone support to patients with long-term conditions in areas with health inequalities and high levels of deprivation.

The project began in April 2006 and has so far targeted patients with coronary heart disease, diabetes, heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and hypertension.

It has now been expanded to cover patients who have had a stroke or transient ischaemic attack (TIA) as well as those with chronic kidney disease.

The project aims to improve self care strategies and ultimately to make an impact on clinical indicators and health service use.

Dr Richard Mendelson, director of chronic disease systems at the PCT, said there was evidence that those already taking part in the programme had reduced their weight and improved their cholesterol, blood pressure and blood glucose levels. There has also been a fall in the number of GP and hospital visits needed.

He added: “The service will now be helping even more people across Birmingham – who have experienced stroke or chronic kidney disease – by offering them tailored support to have more independent lives and get the power to manage their conditions better.”

John Grayland, programme manager for chronic disease systems at the PCT, told EHI Primary Care that the project had so far recruited about 3,000 patients and together with patients recruited from neighbouring PCTs the total number of patients now covered was about 3,500.

An independent evaluation of the programme by Birmingham University is due to be published soon. Grayland said earlier results had been the subject of some criticism that improvements could be attributed to ‘regression to the mean’ but the new evidence would show a clear clinical effect from the programme.

He added: “We are still working to the rough rule of thumb that for every five patients we avoid one admission.

"Latest results for admissions as a whole show our PCT show is doing rather well compared to our neighbours, who have all had increases in their admissions while we have not. That’s obviously due to several initiatives but we think the OwnHealth project has played a big part in that.”