West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group has pulled out of a partnership with West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust to pilot a telemedicine service, putting the project at risk.
In board papers published last month, the trust reported that the CCG has “withdrawn their support” to undertake a 12-month pilot of a telemedicine service using an existing hub run by Airedale NHS Foundation Trust.
The trust described the decision as “a significant setback for the West Suffolk health economy because we are unable to test the benefits of this service locally”.
The papers added that the trust was hoping to achieve the same level of benefits recorded by Airedale in its first year of implementing the telemedicine service, including a 53% reduction in A&E attendances and a 35% reduction in A&E admissions from care homes.
In a comment to EHI News, a spokesperson for the NHS West Suffolk CCG did not explain why it has withdrawn its support, but says the CCG "recognises the role telemedicine can play in delivering healthcare solutions and is committed to exploring the use of telemedicine in care homes in the future. We will continue to work with West Suffolk Hospital and our other healthcare partners to deliver the best services to local people.”
A trust spokesperson added that it is still keen to "introduce telemedicine if possible" and said it is "looking at all of the options for taking the project forward".
Airedale’s service was set up in September 2011 to connect patients at care homes in Yorkshire with a 24/7 nurse-led service at the hospital. By February 2014 it had plans to connect to more than 200 care homes and was providing ‘out-of-region’ care to patients in Cumbria, Bolton, Dartford and Gravesham.
West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust began work on using the Airedale hub as a basis for its telemedicine service in October 2014 as part of a partnership between the trust, the CCG and other healthcare services in the region to improve the integration of care.
According to trust board papers from February, the telemedicine pilot was going to be implemented in two phases, with each phase covering five care homes.
The trust has already developed a standard operating procedure for the service and a patient pathway based on conversations with Airedale. It had also produced a performance dashboard that has been populated with baseline emergency department data.
By the time the February board papers were published four care homes had agreed to take part and it was anticipated a fifth would join by the end of that month.