To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps he is taking to assist NHS organisations to encourage patients with long-term conditions to monitor their own (a) heart activity, (b) blood pressure and (c) lung capacity at home; what equipment is required to allow patients to do so; and if he will make a statement.
The Long Term Condition Whole System Demonstrators (WSDs), promised in the White Paper "Our Health, Our Care, Our Say", will explore the effectiveness of telehealth and telecare in supporting integrated care for those with heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and diabetes. There are three demonstrators in the programme located in Kent, Newham and Cornwall. The demonstrators will be robustly evaluated by a consortium of academic organisations in order to fully assess the business case for such service models.
As part of the WSDs the vital signs of several thousand individuals will be measured over a period of at least a year. The vital signs that are measured will be determined on an individual basis following assessment and the development of a care plan. The monitoring of heart activity, blood pressure and lung capacity will be included in the options available to people within the WSD communities.
The equipment needed to measure vital signs can be standalone—e.g. a blood pressure monitor. However, within the WSDs we are testing the role of assistive technologies as part of an integrated health and social care system. The vital sign measurements will therefore be remotely monitored regularly by health professionals. Feedback and treatment regimes will be tailored based on these readings. To facilitate this the peripherals such as blood pressure monitors will be connected to a telehealth hub that is linked via a phone line or broadband to systems that are securely monitored by clinicians.
In addition, the Department's telecare policy is set out in "Building Telecare in England", which was published in July 2005. The Department provided £80 million of funding, through the Preventative Technology Grant, to support the mainstreaming of telecare services and to benefit up to 160,000 additional users. This policy will support people with a range of long term conditions with a number of localities investing in telehealth equipment to enable the monitoring of vital signs in the home.
Further information will be made available as appropriate.