The TF3 Consortium has won a six year contract to provide a telemonitoring service to more than 8,000 patients across Northern Ireland.

The consortium, which comprises Tunstall Health Group, Fold Housing Association, and S3 Group, has been awarded the £18m deal by the European Centre for Connected Health in the Public Health Agency of Northern Ireland.

The consortium will start implementing remote telemonitoring services this month for people with heart or respiratory conditions or diabetes and those who have suffered a stroke.

Health minister Michael McGimpsey made the announcement at a launch event saying: "This is a wonderful achievement for the health service in Northern Ireland.

“The demographic and budget pressures we face mean that the health service is going to have to find new and better ways to ensure that we continue to provide a high quality service.

“This new service will mean a better experience and better outcomes for many of our patients, with earlier interventions when they have a flare-up and fewer spells in hospital as a result."

The announcement is the second major investment in telehealth to be announced this week. Yesterday, EHI reported that the Scottish Government is to make a £10m investment in technology to support people with long term conditions.

The moves come ahead of the conclusion of England’s whole system demonstrator randomised controlled trial, which was set up to generate evidence about the clinical and cost effectiveness of combining health, social and technology services.

The WSD programme will start to report this spring, but its full conclusions are unlikely to be available before the end of the year.

Northern Ireland may have a particular need for telehealth, because its population is ageing faster than that in other parts of the UK, putting early pressure on its health care budget.

The TF3 Consortium said that a number of methodologies will be used to determine who will benefit from the new service.

Patients may be selected if they frequently access health care services and would benefit from home monitoring, if their conditions are deteriorating, and if they could leave hospital faster with its support.

Over time, patients with more conditions, including those needing palliative care, cancer treatment and help with other neurological conditions could be included.

Jon Lowe, TF3 managing director, said: “This is a truly large-scale initiative aimed at modernising health and care delivery in Northern Ireland, and improving outcomes for people with chronic diseases.

"The managed services that the TF3 consortium will provide are key to minimising unplanned hospital admissions, accelerating discharge and enabling clinicians to improve patient care through remote monitoring."