3millionlives: Plan B and Plan C

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…a multi-million pound budget from the government to make an effective impact on the market. And the rewards from cost savings should more than justify this investment. Isn’t that the point of the WSD programme? The government must take the lead – and the risk.”

Without funding from the Government on a scale the Central Office of Information would take seriously, a campaign is unlikely to have the desired effect of multiplying the users of telecare and telehealth in the UK by three (from 1.6m to 4.6m approximately), even over five years.

To look at it another way, suppose that the average cost of acquiring a new telecare user is £10 (surely a gross underestimate now that the ‘low hanging fruit’ of sheltered accommodation residents and many older social housing tenants already have systems installed), then to get 3 million new users is going to cost £30 million. Even that is a large investment for the market-share leader which, it is widely assumed, will be the major beneficiary of the 3ML campaign. It is no wonder that it is keen for other companies to join in and subsidise the costs.

So what indication is there that a re-think of Plan A is underway? It’s slim evidence, but the four 3ML trade associations have just written to their members seeking to recruit two part-time people. (Paid for by their employers, presumably, it is not totally clear – it is not a publicly advertised recruitment exercise.) A ‘communications expert’ is required for 2 days per week and a project manager for a half time or more commitment. Judging from the person specs the pair will, between them, be carrying the burden of the work on the initiative. This has the feeling of a much cheaper (more realistic?) Plan B in the making.

The application process is to send a short CV to Trevor Single, TSA Chief Executive, before the 29th February meeting. [Note to applicants: TS has started to capitalise 3MillionLives, so you may want to too. But do not get the DH 3millionlives initiative confused with the 3 Million Lives – 3 Million Yards campaign on suicide prevention.]

And Plan C?

It involves Telehealthcare Tinker Bell producing large quantities of fairy dust to sprinkle over the media in the hope that it will transform public awareness. Oh, wait!…wasn’t that Plan A?


  1. Now I am nothing of a poker player but what little knowledge I have I share with you. The players sit around the table and assess their hands. The betting commences with, say, £10k. everyone else at the table follows. Then a player raises the stakes by £10k and three players stack (I think that’s the term). Then the big player raises another £20k. We all stack. We’ve invested heavily and gone away with nothing. Big player wins…for now…

    Does this sound a bit like the 3ML scenario or am I just in a silly Friday mood?

  2. Charles Lowe

    Dare I point out that the first step to increasing rollout of telehealth and telecare is good evidence? I was recently presenting to a large meeting which had the power to agree a major telehealth rollout but was stopped in my tracks by a GP demanding good evidence.

    I recall receiving the original ITQ for the WSD (which was to be a one-year trial) in December 2006. Although I understand the WSD trial was eventually completed in lat-ish 2010, we still don’t have any results for telecare at all and only the highest-level figures for telehealth benefits, which aren’t even split by long term condition.

    I am told to expect great stuff at the Kings Fund event in March and have dutifully paid up. I do hope I’m not disappointed so that I will be able to go back to that board soon with evidence that is of the required granularity and detail.

    More money is always welcome. However just now I’ll be happy wiith some really good evidence, if it exists, of benefit for both telecare and telehealth…very soon!

  3. Steve Hards, editor

    Charles, thanks for bringing our focus back to the key issue!

    What I can’t work out is whether the evidence publication delay really is – as the line has been until now – that ‘the data is so complicated…’ or whether it is because the academics are waiting for a peer reviewed journal to publish the results so that they can get their academic brownie points (at the expense of the people who could be benefiting).

    If the latter is the case then I don’t see how the KF conference and the journal’s publication dates get synchronised.

  4. Cathy

    … and part of the reason the evidence is so vital is that players not yet arrived at the casino hold some high cards!

    Our Public Sector Authorities mostly comprise such convoluted systems (IT and otherwise) that they need a good reason to consider unpicking the seams and changing how those systems communicate. That change is costly in terms of infrastructure as well as needing to win the right hearts and minds for it to get on the agenda. Unless that happens 3ML is just about product and as Jo contributed last week

    [quote name=”Jo”]However, if telecare (and telehealth) are to become part of a full and standard delivery system then we have to move away from a product focus and to a whole system approach, getting the technological solutions into the care pathways and standard approaches used by care managers. They are dealing with vulnerable people – so end-to-end solutions are needed that don’t create an alert that nobody responds to or which isn’t recorded on a system so that trends can be seen and preventive actions taken before escalation occurs.[/quote]

    The people responsible for dealing with vulnerable people need to have the evidence in a format that they can not only understand but that they can readily align to their current practice – then it becomes meaningful; then the dog starts to wag the tail instead of the other way round.

  5. There will be a UK Telehealth supplement in the Health Service Journal next week – available Thurs 1 March 2012 in UK at news stores or via subscription.


    Mike Clark
    Twitter: @clarkmike

  6. Anon

    So the TSA will be writing to its members asking for permission to support a 5% increase in membership fees and to create a part-time post for an additional marketeer for the 3ML campaign (in addition to the one appointed a few months ago) at the same time as they are withdrawing a part-time post to support technical services for their member organisations. Once more the TSA chiefs are showing that they are all about fur coats and no knickers!

    I challenge them not to simply write to their members but to conduct a proper ballot where members can choose specifically how they want their fees to be spent – and I predict that it wont be to create a business model that will benefit only BT, Tunstall, and Microsoft.

  7. Uptake, evidence, marketing, 3M Lives…..
    There is tons of evidence, this has proven health benefits in other health economies so why not ours. A confused and mixed message? Yes surely. But blurred lines of medical and social care boundaries do not help. Commissioners don’t know what to do, how to implement, how to manage a service, scared it will need additional resources, so surely the best option is to align telehealth as an extension of existing medical care, not as a stand alone proposition.