BEHIND the scenes a team of nurses armed with the latest technology has been keeping close watch over hundreds of patients to allow them to regain their independence but most importantly feel safe.

The telehealth system was introduced in Swindon in 2008 and has allowed medical staff to care for people with chronic or complex conditions in their own homes.

The special equipment monitors patients’ blood pressure, blood glucose, oxygen levels or pulse, and has been instrumental in reducing the number of visits many made to their GP and avoiding unplanned visits to the hospital.

Patients or their carers are taught how to carry out the tests and the measurements are automatically transmitted via a little black box or modem to the SEQOL team at their Urgent Care Centre. There, if the readings are abnormal, nurses decide whether there is any need for intervention at an early stage.

If there is, a community matron will see the patient immediately.

Jemma Black, an urgent care nurse who monitors the information received through the system from the Urgent Care Centre said the technology had revolutionised patient care in Swindon.

“If their blood pressure was up or their oxygen levels were low that would give us a red alert and we would ring them up and ask them to re-take the test. We would then see whether we could stabilise them at home or whether they would need to go to the hospital.

“Part of telehealth aims to help reduce the number of visits to the hospital for people who could be treated in their home, which is more comfortable for them. It is really patient-centred. And it also saves cost.

“The other part is about education and about patients taking control of their health. Some patients are very stoic and they don’t want to go to the doctor which means their condition gets worse and then they will need to be taken to hospital. We have 156 people using telehealth and it gives them peace of mind.”

While the monitoring system is far from unique in the country, the SEQOL team was recognised twice last year for its innovative use of telehealth, which is manned by a group of seven nurses.

In other parts of the country, the results fed back by the telehealth box are received by a call centre, not clinicians.

“One of our patients, a young man with learning disabilities and a range of long-term physical conditions in his 20s was being admitted to hospital almost weekly and was on the end of life register before,” added Jemma.

“But with telehealth, he is not on the end of life register anymore and from being almost bedbound he now lives semi-independently and goes to visit his mum at weekends, taking his telehealth kit with him.”