The scheme has prevented 3,000 avoidable visits to A&E and freed up 2,000 GP appointments.
NHS doctors and nurses are using Skype to help older patients get faster care, reduce avoidable ambulance call-outs and helping people stay out of hospital.
The on-call Skype NHS team takes around 8,000 calls a year from wardens working in sheltered accommodation, care home staff and community teams looking for expert support for their residents.
Tameside, in Greater Manchester, is one of the first areas to adopt the technology.
NHS England claims the scheme has prevented 3,000 avoidable visits to A&E and freed up 2,000 GP appointments in the past two years.
They boast the scheme allows elderly patients to get the right support in their own home rather than having an often distressing trip to A&E.
Offering ‘advice and reassurance’.
Peter Grace, a registered nurse who works taking calls in the digital centre, said: “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.”
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.”
No replacement for living, breathing nurses.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has warned that the use of technology in healthcare should always be appropriate and not a compromise.
Responding to NHS plans to expand the use of technology in the health service as part of the NHS People Plan, RCN England Director Patricia Marquis said: “We’ve spent the past week at our annual Congress telling the Government about the impact on patients of England’s 40,000 unfilled nurse jobs, needless administration and too much bureaucracy.
“It is not enough to talk about technology to solve shortages – it is people who look after people. Technology in hospitals in the community is transformative in care but not a replacement for the care of a living, breathing nurse.”