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Thousands of unnecessary hospital visits prevented by Skype

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A Greater Manchester NHS scheme that offers support to elderly patients over Skype has prevented thousands of avoidable hospital visits, the NHS has said. 

The scheme, which has been running in Tameside for two years, has seen on-call NHS teams take over 8,000 calls a year from wardens working in sheltered accommodation, care home staff and community teams looking for expert support for their residents.

In addition to saving elderly patients the stress and disruption of an unnecessary hospital visit, it is estimated that the scheme has also freed up around 2,000 GP appointments.

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And the scheme is just one part of a larger programme of integrated services that is being rolled out across the country, with the NHS Long Term Plan using technology to allow for more efficient and personal delivery of care.

Prof Stephen Powis, NHS England Medical Director, said: “Putting every person’s individual care needs at the centre of joined-up services, supported by smart technology, is the heart of our Long Term Plan for the NHS.

“What matters most to every patient and their family is that they get the right treatment, at the right time, so integrating services – across communities and between councils, carers and hospitals – is not only good for the people we care for but a more efficient use of NHS resources.”

Meanwhile, Peter Grace, a registered nurse who takes calls in the NHS digital centre, was very positive about the scheme’s impact.

“By setting up a direct link between services and the doctors and nurses at the hospital’s digital health team, we were able to offer guidance, advice and reassurance as well as being able to see the patient on Skype.

“Extending this to housing wardens, working with the council, has taken the project to the next level as now we can also help with issues in sheltered accommodation such as falls.”

Greater Manchester is one of 14 areas across the country that has adopted an Integrated Care System (ICS) which joins up NHS and local government services and the impact of this approach has been hailed by Jon Rouse, the Chief Officer of the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, who said: “Tameside’s pioneering work is an example of what happens when you bring together teams from the NHS, local authorities and care home providers and give them the freedom and resources to develop new ways of doing things.”

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Lee Peart

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