Government ditches plan to roll out telehealth solutions to three million patients

Campaign quietly shelved among fears it is too costly and patients won't use it

It was hoped the Government's 3millionlives campaign would save the NHS millions of pounds and enable people to live independently in their own homes for longer

It has been revealed that the Government has dropped its much-lauded plan to roll out telehealth solutions to three million patients in England over the next five years.

The flagship 3millionlives scheme to get patients emailing their vital signs to their local GP surgeries has been quietly shelved, the Daily Mail reports.

The plan was first unveiled in 2011 with the claim that it would save the NHS £1.2billion a year and improve management of long-term health conditions, such as diabetes and COPD.

The scheme involved patients monitoring their vital signs, such as blood pressure and blood sugar readings, at home, then sending this information remotely to their GP surgery where it would be read and, if necessary, action could be taken. The Government said this would save money as fewer patients would need GP or nurse appointments. There was also a hope it would cut down on emergency hospital admissions as problems would be picked up and treatment given at the earliest opportunity.

NHS England needs to invest in what works – especially hands-on human care supplied by carers who currently often don’t have enough time to supply people’s basic needs

But over the past few years several pilot projects have failed and older people, in particular, have been put off using the high-tech solutions. And, while nurses largely welcomed the plan, GPs complained they were bogged down with data. This has led to the Government shelving the project amid fears it would be too expensive and largely ineffective.

Instead it is expected they will announce a watered-down version where ‘Technology Enabled Care Services’ are available, but with no ambitious targets attached.

The decision comes after a report published last month found the extra £1,014 a year it cost to provide each patient with the monitoring service and equipment did not cut deaths or rates of admission to care homes.

Commenting on the news, GPs urged politicians to concentrate on getting the basics right, rather than obsessing about ‘gadgets’.

Dr Margaret McCartney, who presents the BBC Radio 4 programme, Inside Health, said: “This expensive black box kit isn’t good value for money, and there is no gadget in the world that can help a sick person to eat, wash and dress.

“NHS England needs to invest in what works – especially hands-on human care supplied by carers who currently often don’t have enough time to supply people’s basic needs.”

Twenty years from now, we will use technology to access our health services as a matter of course

But experts insist it does not have to spell the end for telecare and telehealth technologies.

Professor James Barlow from Imperial College, London, who has helped evaluate the pilot programmes, said: “The evidence is that telehealth does lead to lower rates of admission and speedier discharge.”

And Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, medical director of NHS England, has written to health bosses across the country asking them to support the revamped scheme.

And a spokesman for NHS England claimed its ambition was still to help three million people with long-term conditions using remote care devices, adding: “Twenty years from now, we will use technology to access our health services as a matter of course.”