The BBC is the latest mainstream news organisation to report concerns about the NHS North Yorkshire & York PCT (NYY) telehealth programme where 2,000 Tunstall health monitoring units were paid for upfront by NYY and the Strategic Health Authority of the time at a cost of £3 million. It was covered on Friday in a local TV news broadcast and in an online article. Telehealth scheme criticised by GPs in North Yorkshire. The BBC report is partly based on a copy of the confidential internal audit report which it obtained through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request. [Just because a document is released under FOI does not mean that it is in the public domain, which is a pity as it must be a fascinating read.] In the BBC report, Dr David Geddes for the PCT confirms that, as we industry observers had suspected, the scale of the procurement was driven by the need to ‘spend the money or lose it’.
In brief, for readers who may not be up to speed with the other concerns, around the commissioning…
- The scale of the procurement was driven by the need to spend the £3m before the end of the financial year or to lose it. NYY was heavily in debt at the time. The commissioning also pre-empted the results of a small pilot project that had started a short time before.
- The deal included approximately £1 million worth of ‘free’ implementation consultancy from Ernst & Young, an amount which would have been difficult to get approved if it had been proposed to purchase it as a separate item
- Just a few months after the conclusion of the deal one of the key people in NYY, David Cockayne, took up a senior management position with Tunstall
Since then the uptake of the available monitoring units has been very slow. The number of units in use at any one time has hovered around 450, with approximately 650 people having used them during this time. The reasons for the slow uptake are not clear but could include: poor project management; resistance from local GPs, whose participation is essential, or simply that the actual level of need in the population is less than anticipated.
This ‘largest telehealth project in the UK’ was followed up in 2011 by a similar deal for 2,000 units, but for £5 million, between Tunstall and Gloucestershire PCT.
Links to related Telecare Aware items (newest to oldest)
Tunstall’s telehealth program at NHS Gloucestershire (June 2011)
NYY PCT responds to Telecare Aware item: The £3+ million telehealth spend that has achieved…what? (Oct 2010)
Private Eye on NHS NYY telehealth (Nov 2010)