The government has identified telehealth services as one of the main beneficiaries of its plans to invest £1 billion in super-fast broadband.

Business secretary Lord Mandelson last week announced a consultation on how the government’s proposed £1b Next Generation Fund should be spent.

The government said the fund would provide the UK with a world class communications network and bring super-fast broadband to 90% of the population by 2017.

It added that current estimates suggest that only 70% of the population would be covered by private investment alone.

Lord Mandelson added: “This investment is about bringing the future of broadband to areas of the country that would otherwise miss out.

"We cannot underestimate the opportunities this will bring for homes and businesses which is why we are taking action to make sure everyone benefits.

Plans to improve the UK’s broadband capabilities were first outlined in the Digital Britain report published by the government last summer.

The government said the objectives of the fund were to support Digital Britain’s aim of rolling out next generation networks, to incentivise market investment in communications infrastructure and to maximise links with a parallel government programme to ensure that every community has access to 2Mbps broadband connection by 2012.

On health, the Next Generation Fund consultation says super-fast broadband will enable “much vaunted” telecare and telehealth services to become more feasible, with clinicians able to monitor and treat long term conditions more effectively and efficiently.

The consultation document adds: “Some healthcare services can already be delivered over current generation broadband but increased bandwidth provides the potential for better quality imaging, smoother motion and sound which suggest tele-healthcare services can be significantly improved for those who need it.”

The report adds that such services would lead to particular improvements in the quality of health care for the elderly or people living in remote areas.

The government said it would soon appoint a procurement team to oversee the delivery and management of Next Generation Access.

It is proposing that the Next Generation Fund will be raised by a duty of 50p on all fixed lines, as previously announced in the Digital Britain white paper.

The consultation on how the Fund should be spent runs for 12 weeks and a further consultation on how the fund should be raised has been running since 11 December.