The Department of Health (DH) in England and UK industry groups have agreed a Concordat aimed at accelerating the use of telehealth and telecare.

"We want to move beyond the current situation where a few thousand people are benefiting from telehealth to one where millions of lives can be improved with the help of these technology-assisted services, and contribute to the mainstreaming of telecare," says the Concordat, which has been signed by Care Services Minister Paul Burstow, Telecare Services Association (TSA) chief executive Trevor Single, Peter Ellingworth, chief executive of the Association of British Healthcare Industries (ABHI), Jon Lindberg, head of healthcare at Intellect, which represents the UK technology industry, and Tony Davis, chair of health technology business support service Medilink UK.

The Concordat was launched, under the banner "3millionlives," at a Parliamentary event where Mr Burstow reaffirmed his commitment to enhance the lives of three million people over the next five years by accelerating the roll-out of telehealth and telecare in the NHS and social care. This will, in turn, reduce the burden on acute hospital inpatient use and increase the cost-effectiveness of care, says the document.

However, these benefits will only be made possible by the industry working together with the DH and other stakeholders, Mr Burstow told the meeting. "In addition, UK industry will gain a competitive edge in a marketplace where many millions of people worldwide could benefit from this technology, helping to generate income and jobs in the UK," he went on.

The Concordat is an enabling framework which sets out the ambition for a unique way of working together, and "a commitment towards planning the adoption and use, at scale and pace, of assistive technologies to improve the lives of people with long-term conditions where this offers demonstrable value for money and high standards for patients," say the partners.

Government alone cannot make this happen, nor can industry, without the help of the NHS and social care services, says the document. "Yet together there is substantial interest, commitment and expertise to overcome the existing barriers to scale these services for the benefit of millions of people," it adds.

The aim of the agreement is to establish and deliver a campaign that creates the right environment, leaving detailed decisions about service delivery to be made locally. Industry will lead the way in developing the market, raising awareness and providing credible support to health and social care professionals as they make decisions about making the service changes heeded, it notes.

"Government will continue to promote the findings and evidence base from the Whole System Demonstrator (WSD) programme and work with the NHS and social care to crate the macro environment that helps this technology to thrive and transform the way health and care services are delivered in England," it adds.

The Parliamentary event marked the work of the WSD, which is the largest randomised control trial of telecare and telehealth in the world and has been funded and run by the DH. The WSD trials resulted in reductions of: -15% in A&E visits; - 20% in emergency admissions; - 14% in elective admissions; and - 45% in mortality rates.

The trial also proved that these services are also cost-effective and could provide a 14% reduction in bed days and an 8% cut in tariff costs.

Angela Single, chair of the 3millionlive working group, stressed the industry’s commitment to overcoming the barriers which have so far prevented the NHS from fully adopting the technologies.

“Any changes to service delivery takes time, but time is not on our side as we are faced with an aging population who should be benefitting now from telehealth and telecare services that have been proven to work,” she said.