Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn pilots ‘telemedicine’ for elderly patients in West Norfolk

A nurse carries out a telemedicine consultation in a care home. Picture: Submitted A nurse carries out a telemedicine consultation in a care home. Picture: Submitted

Friday, May 23, 2014
5:17 PM

Elderly patients can be seen by emergency doctors without having to leave their homes.

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A new ‘telemedicine’ scheme is being piloted by the by the West Norfolk Alliance health team.

It’s being funded from the extra £3.9m allocated by the government to the West Norfolk Clinical Commissioning Group, to help fund winter emergency care.

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, which is a member of the West Norfolk Alliance, is piloting the scheme with three care homes, who are now linked to a 24-hour telemedicine ‘hub’ operated by the Airedale NHS Foundation Trust, in Yorkshire.

Emergency calls are routed to a senior duty nurse in Airedale who carries out a consultation and assessment of the patient via a computer video link at the patient’s bedside, before arranging any necessary care.

Homes linked to the system are Goodwins Hall and Amberley Hall, in King’s Lynn, and Iceni House in Swaffham.

The project’s first operational case involved an elderly resident at Iceni House who had discomfort in the legs.

She had been told previously by paramedics that future episodes might involve a hospital admission, which was causing her anxiety.

This would have meant transfer by ambulance, accompanied by nursing staff from the home, to the Accident and Emergency department at the QEH for assessment, possibly followed by admission as an inpatient.

James Eley, general manager of Iceni House, said: “We rang the telemedicine centre and spoke to a nurse. We took the laptop to the patient’s room and took the usual observations which the nurse was able to review and discuss with us.

“We agreed that there was no need to call an ambulance in this instance and the nurse spoke to community services to get some further support. We monitored the lady and later that evening she reported she was feeling much better.

“The system worked extremely well. We avoided an inappropriate hospital admission to A&E and the lady was spared the inconvenience and discomfort of getting into an ambulance - something which had been troubling her and had been playing on her mind.

“I think this is definitely the way forward. It’s the medicine of the future.”

Andrew Stenton, interim chief operating officer at the QEH, said: “A hospital admission is sometimes not the best way to treat a patient. This new technology brings care closer to people’s homes and we are extremely excited to be involved in this innovative approach to the provision of healthcare.”

Dr Ian Mack, chair of West Norfolk Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We are pleased to have been able to support this pilot scheme. Here in West Norfolk we continue to look at the ways that new technology can bring care closer to patients’ homes and provide safe and effective services.”

Sue Whitaker, Norfolk’s cabinet member for adult social services, said: “There are advantages to everyone concerned with a scheme like this. It will take pressure off the hard-pressed ambulance service and hospital emergency services. It will also take away the anxiety of a hospital visit and allows elderly people to be diagnosed in the comfort of their own home.”

A similar scheme operates at the James Paget Hospital, but the Norfolk and Norwich does not currently use telemedicine.

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