Paul Burstow MP writes… Want to know how we can improve three million lives?

If I said the words “telecare” and “telehealth” to the person on the street it’s likely they wouldn’t have a clue what I was on about. They’re hardly phrases which just trip off the tongue.

But dig under that jargon and you’ll find that these are really very simple technologies which can help elderly people and those with long-term conditions right across the country.

Yesterday I hosted a launch of the Three Million Lives campaign. Very simply this campaign is a public declaration of how Government and industry will work together to make sure millions of lives are transformed. And because the Lib Dems have championed it, we should be proud and shout about it from the rooftops. So, here goes:

  • Telehealth means electronic sensors that monitor a person’s health remotely
  • Telehealth means tabs are kept on vital health signs so that patients don’t have to attend hospital or their GP
  • Telecare means personal alarms so that people, particularly elderly residents, can be cared for at home for longer
  • Telecare means should an elderly person fall in their home, help will arrive quickly

And finally, Three Million Lives means we can expand the telecare and telehealth market and tell the story of how these two technologies help people. There are more than 15 million people with long-term conditions like diabetes, and the NHS spends 70p in every £1 of its budget on them. And so far we know that the benefits of this technology are quite astounding. As the results from our pilot sites show:

  • There were 45% fewer deaths
  • A 20% fall in emergency admissions
  • A 14% reduction in bed days

The figures speak for themselves. So next time you hear the words ‘telecare’ and telehealth’, don’t zone out and instead think about how you can get involved. In the end, it’s about making sure more people’s lives can be made easier, happier and just that little bit more comfortable.

* Paul Burstow is Liberal Democrat candidate for Sutton and Cheam and was the MP until the dissolution of Parliament on 30th March.

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  • John Carlisle 20th Jan '12 - 12:35pm

    You want to improve millions of lives? Stop the NHS Bill now. Every indicator shows that the people in the NHS can give a better service for less money if they are allowed to improve the systems they work in by taking out the waste; and if fear is driven out.
    You are party to driving in fear and encouraging a massive, catastrophic re-structure that has been rejected by all the parties representing people who work in the NHS. Why, without any supporting evidence, did you do this? One reason could be in the subtext of your article, which is all about technology and not at all about people. What happens when those who need to go to hospital do so? What quality of care will they from a fragmented, competition- and cost- driven, NHS? Where will you get the collaboration this exercise needs under these conditions?
    Who will pay and which private companies will profit from telecare?

  • The system of alarms etc for the elderly is good in theory but in far too many cases the alarm goes off and it is treated as a false alarm which means the person needing help is still left alone, vulnerable and isolated.

    I know personally of one instance where the warden monitoring one of these alarms when they couldnt make contact with the person concerned just phoned the relatives of that person rather than contacting the emergency services etc.

    The way to improve lives is to concentrate on quality of life rather than trying to prolong the length of someones life at ever increasing cost to the health service. People who are crippled because they need hip or knee replacements are constantly told they need to wait till the situation is even worse before they get treated. In Oxfordshire where I live a man who was the sole carer for his disabled wife was told that an eye condition he had wouldnt be treated thus ensuring that instead of the cost of treating him the state picks up the tab for caring for both him and his wife. At the same time we will not accept that in some cases medical treatment just prolongs the sufferring of the patient and really the aim in those cases should be to provide comfort, pain relief and a calming atmosphere for that person to spend the rest of their life.

  • Andrew Suffield 20th Jan '12 - 3:57pm

    Where will you get the collaboration this exercise needs under these conditions?

    Where would you get this kind of collaboration and effort to improve services under current bureaucratic, risk-averse conditions?

  • John Carlisle 20th Jan '12 - 5:07pm

    Andrew, I agree with the assessment of the larger system. What worries me though is that it seems that the underlying assumptions of Paul Burstow’s panegyric of technohealth seems to worry only four LibDem Voice readers!

  • To be honest, it seems a bit odd for politicians to be trumpeting the results of pilot studies on the basis that “the figures speak for themselves,” when not a word of proper scientific analysis has been published.

    45% fewer deaths sounds miraculous, but I can’t help wondering what the actual numbers are, and whether they are statistically significant. I can’t see any indication of this in the Department of Health “Headline Findings” document.

    What particularly gave me pause for thought was that a couple of minutes Googling threw up a five year trial involving 1665 diabetic patients in New York State, which showed _no_ significant difference in mortality rates:

  • I see that according to Andrew Lansley in the Commons, the 45% reduction in mortality rates was “among older people” – information that doesn’t seem to be in the “Headline Findings” document. So this relates to a subsample rather than the full population. I think for anything other than a PR exercise more information is needed about the numbers and their statistical significance.

  • This is a way forward, in making the lives of people with long term conditions much better, and done properly will enable more people to live their lives with more independence with less worry for them and their carers.
    What worries me is the phrase “The challenge is to integrate these technology assisted services into the care and services that NHS and social care delivers.”. So many of the existing services are not working with each other as they should, so integration of telecare needs to be monitored very carefully indeed.

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