Select Committee on Health Minutes of Evidence



  The NHS Plan (2000) sets out a number of areas where specific telemedicine and telecare development is expected:

    "Ambulances will be equipped with video and monitoring equipment so that victims of accidents can get the most appropriate care while they are being taken to hospital" (1.12)

    "The consulting room will become the place where appointments ... are booked, test results received and more diagnosis carried out using video and telelinks to hospital specialists" (1.14)

    "New technology in the home will make independent living easier for people who are elderly or disabled" (1.20)

    "through investment in electronic patient records all local health services will have facilities for telemedicine by 2005 allowing patients to connect with staff electronically for advice" (4.21)

Information for Health (1998) identified some key application areas for telemedicine (1.29):

    "opportunities in the field of telemedicine will be seized to remove distance from healthcare, to improve the quality of that care, and to help deliver new and integrated services. GPs will be able to send test readings or images electronically to hospital specialists many miles away and in the same way receive results and advice more quickly

    through telemedicine, nurse practitioners in a community minor injuries unit will be able to consult doctors in the local Accident and Emergency department, improving the quality of care and preventing unnecessary travelling and referrals. Specialists in regional teaching centres will provide on-line guidance and support to colleagues in local general hospitals or beyond

    telecare technology will be used to provide reliable but unobtrusive supervision of vulnerable people who want to sustain an independent life in their own home. Video links with electronic monitoring will allow community health and social care workers to "visit" patients at home more easily"

    and set the specific target that the NHS should be "routinely considering telemedicine and telecare options in all Health Improvement Programmes"

Building the Information Core (2001) developed this theme further.

  Section 3.6 of that document declared that "Telemedicine and telecare should be seen as an integral part of health care delivery. It provides for information to be exchanged electronically between sites separated in space and/or time, assisting healthcare professionals to take decisions on appropriate health care delivery."

  It also set some specific objectives for telemedicine:

    —  Ambulance services should be planning now on the basis that all new vehicles should be capable of being fitted with video monitoring equipment (and the extent to which existing vehicles can be retro-fitted), and liaising with acute trusts to ensure that links are available to hospitals.

    —  GPs should be looking to have video conferencing capability by 2004 either in their own premises or in collaboration with local colleagues.

    —  Effective implementation of telecare services involves local authority and private sector services as well as community trusts. Local Implementation Strategies should be considering ways of providing these services using telephone lines, digital television, radio alarms and monitoring technology.

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Prepared 4 December 2002