The General Practitioners Committee (GPC) of the British Medical Association believes that the use of telehealth for remotely monitoring patients, as proposed by the UK Government, is unlikely to be cost-effective for GP practices and that there is little evidence of patient benefit.
‘Remote care monitoring for patients’ is a Directed Enhanced Service (DES) from the NHS for 2013/14 and as GP reported at the time, the GPC criticised the Government at the end of last year that this DES is “politically motivated interference in GP contracts”. A DES is a medical service over and above the normal GP services and the GP practices can choose whether or not to provide a DES. GPC’s negotiator Dr Chaand Nagpaul quoted £80k per patient per year cost for telehealth from the WSD data to dismiss telehealth last year. But it is not obvious that the WSD figure is appropriate in this case.
The NHS DES Directions for 2013 includes a service (called a remote care monitoring plan, ) for patients with long term conditions, the purpose of which is to “establish a system to enable patients to manage and monitor their own treatment and condition other than by attendance at the contractor’s practice premises for a face to face consultation with a health care professional”. That is Department of Health speak for telehealth. This service is due to be implemented in 2014/15 and the Department of Health expects this to reduce unnecessary patient visits to GPs. The problem though, according to the GPC, is that the Government will pay only 21p/patient in the current preparatory year and GPC suggests this may not cover the costs for some practices.