Darzi Review implies significant future role for telecare and telehealth

Nick Goodwin

Lord Darzi's NHS Next Stage Review confirmed a significant shift in the government’s approach to health care. A most critical element in this future vision for the NHS is the creation of comprehensive well-being and prevention services, with a new emphasis on primary and community care settings, to do as much to manage people’s health rather than simply treat illness.

Whilst telecare and telehealth do not get a specific mention in the report, the agenda implies a significant and enhanced role for new assistive technologies, and greater future investment in telecare and telehealth products. Indeed, the Review highlights how 'the NHS will not be confined to hospitals, health centres or GP surgeries but will be available online and in people’s homes', with 'remote health monitoring enabled by wireless and bluetooth technologies'.

The Review specifically supports the HealthSpace initiative, through which patients can record information about their own care and access their own Summary Care Record, allowing patients to self-care and upload the results for their GP to see. Access to information on long-term conditions personalised to the individual will also be available. HealthSpace will be introduced from next year and telecare and telehealth enthusiasts would suggest these applications could have a significant role to play in enabling this.

At present, however, there is a lack of evidence on the cost-effectiveness and contribution to health gain of many telecare and telehealth innovations - a fact that has the potential to limit the funding of innovative new technologies as commissioners seek to ensure their financial investments are made wisely. Health and social care professionals, and indeed patients, also need to be convinced of the merits of such applications.

For these reasons, the Department of Health has been keen to develop the evidence-base through the Whole System Demonstrator Pilots - the largest randomised control trial of its type (read more about the trial) - as well as through WSDAN itself. It is also for this reason that the European Commission has recently established a major study on the cost-effectiveness of e-health interventions across Europe.

Telecare and telehealth will increasingly be identified as a core preventive service in supporting people with long-term conditions. Therefore, it is vital that new innovations are actively encouraged with minimal delay and are linked directly to generating a sound and emerging evidence-base.

Nick Goodwin is Senior Fellow at the King’s Fund and co-project lead for WSDAN.

Key resources on the Darzi Review

Department of Health
High Quality Care For All: NHS Next Stage Review Final Report

CSIP Networks
Darzi Information Sheet 2: Housing and Telecare Implications

The King's Fund
News in context: Lord Darzi's NHS Next Stage Review
High Quality Care for All: Briefing on NHS Next Stage Review final report