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More imaginative approach should be adopted by Government to rescue Remote Care

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 Maxine Myers 24 January 2013

The UK could be at the forefront of using technologies that enable patients to be cared for in the comfort of their home

The UK could be at the forefront of using technologies that enable patients to be cared for in the comfort of their home if the government adopted more imaginative approaches to supporting the NHS and industry working in this field, according to a report released today by researchers from Imperial College Business School.

It is estimated that approximately 350,000 NHS patients in the UK currently use technologies that remotely monitor their vital signs, mobility and general safety at home. In 2012, the Government decided to dramatically extend the use of these technologies to up to 3 million people, following calls for its widespread adoption. However, the complex relationship between health, social care services, the NHS and local authorities could jeopardise the implementation of these services in the community.

The researchers in today’s report highlight how the UK is already a global testbed for the use of these technologies, which is collectively known as “Remote Care”. However, they warn that without a more radical approach to encourage its adoption, the Government could see a failure of its current policies, which could lead to the NHS and the remote care industry losing confidence and commitment in developing and delivering these technologies.

The report, entitled “Remote Care PLC: Developing the capacity of the remote care industry to supply Britain’s future needs” recommends:

  • Reform of NHS payment systems that currently financially disadvantage hospitals if more patients are treated at home.
  • New relationships between suppliers of Remote Care and the NHS and local authorities
  • Consideration of new Public Private Partnerships (PPP) in healthcare, reflecting innovations in Europe. These PPPs could encourage the NHS, local authorities and Remote Care suppliers to collaborate over the long-term and so increase dramatically the use of remote technologies in the home.
  • Greater collaboration between health and social care providers so that purchasing is less fragmented and clear market signals are sent to suppliers.

Launching the report, Professor James Barlow, Chair of the Technology and Innovation Management group at Imperial College Business School, said:

“If you speak, as we have, with companies gearing up for Britain’s ‘Remote Care’ revolution, the levels of scepticism are unmistakeable and worrying. Faith in the future is shaky. If the remote care revolution is to take off, shifting healthcare out of hospitals and into homes, we will need more action than is currently proposed under government policy. Current political commitment, though considerable, is insufficient to achieve a great potential prize – a more rational, higher quality, perhaps even cheaper, health and social care system, and a vibrant UK export industry based on remote care technology.”

'Remote PLC’, by James Barlow et al, is published by the Health and Care Infrastructure Research and Innovation Centre, and was funded partly through the Whole Systems Demonstrator (WSD) programme and the EPSRC’s IMRC programme.

Read the full report  'Remote PLC' (pdf)

A commentary on the report by James Barlow is published on 24 Jan 2013 in the Health Service Journal and can be accessed as the lead blog on the home page of www.haciric.org

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