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Teleheath service expanded

28 May 2020

Thousands more people in Liverpool with long-term conditions are set to benefit from specialist monitoring in their own homes, thanks to the rapid expansion of NHS Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group’s telehealth programme.

NHS England has invested over £850,000 to help rapidly expand Liverpool’s telehealth system as part of the local NHS response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Telehealth is a technology-led nursing service which provides remote home monitoring for patients with long-term health problems such as respiratory, heart and diabetic conditions.

Under this service, a patient uses a smartphone, blood pressure monitor and pulse oximeter to take vital sign readings and enter them onto the telehealth system along with other symptoms. A team of nurses monitor these remotely and triage them to provide advice, support and onward referrals for patients, as required.

The telehealth service, which is provided by Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust, was already supporting over 2,000 vulnerable patients across the city at a time, before the pandemic began.

The extra investment will not only allow the telehealth team to quickly expand the service to support up to 6,000 Liverpool patients, but will also provide additional system capacity to enable other CCG areas in Merseyside and Cheshire to develop a similar service.

Peter Almond, Programme Manager for the Telehealth Service at Mersey Care explains:

“Our team have been contacting local people who aren’t already using telehealth, but we feel might benefit from the extra monitoring and support that telehealth can provide to help them stay well during this time, because they are at higher risk.

“We’re aiming to take on another 2,500 living with chronic conditions straight away to help protect them whist they are shielding, as well as providing remote support and monitoring for patients in Liverpool with milder COVID-19 symptoms to help them manage the illness at home and stay out of hospital where possible.”

In addition, the telehealth system is also being used to support patients being discharged from a local hospital after recovering from COVID-19.

Peter continues, “The system allows us to provide recovering COVID-19 patients with ongoing monitoring by a specialist community respiratory team in those initial 7 to 14 days after they return home from hospital, which can be really reassuring for patients and their families.”

Carol Hughes, Clinical Lead for Health Technology at Mersey Care said:

“Our team is very proud that this simple technology can make such a difference to people living with a chronic condition. We know that helping people to take more control of their condition improves their quality of life. 

“This technology is changing the way care is being delivered and what sets us apart from other organisations using Telehealth is that we also have a dedicated hub of nurse advisers whose role it is to continuously monitor and assist these vulnerable patients whilst they remain at home.

She adds, “We are also keen to stress that the technology should be an aid, not a barrier and all our patients receive training in using it. As one of our older patients said, ‘if you can work a TV remote control you can easily operate Telehealth too.”

John Webb, NHS Liverpool CCG’s commissioning lead for the service said:

“The Telehealth service was set up to support people in their own homes to manage their long-term conditions better and stay out of hospital. But during this pandemic we are realising the benefits of using this kind of health technology more fully, especially as it can be scaled up so quickly and easily.

“At a time when thousands of high-risk patients are being advised to stay at home and to socially shield themselves, telehealth has the advantage of reducing the need for face-to-face consultations, with the inherent risks that can bring.”

He adds, “Over the last few years we have built up a real specialism in health technology in Liverpool and we’re really delighted that several other neighbouring areas have already expressed a keen interest in sharing that learning and adopting the system too.”

The Telehealth Service is commissioned by NHS Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group and delivered by Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust, with support from Informatics Merseyside. The Telehealth software and patient equipment is provided by Docobo Limited.