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Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust is expanding a successful remote monitoring service for clinicians to easily access patient readings who are diagnosed with heart failure.

The expansion comes as the initial introduction of the remote monitoring service showed a significant reduction in hospital bed days, A&E attendances, GP visits, and out-of-hours appointments over a six-month period.

Clinicians assess newly referred heart failure patients for suitability and give them the choice of joining the service. The trust provides patients with easy-to-use equipment including blood pressure monitors, weighing scales, and pulse oximeters plus basic training and ongoing support. It is anticipated the service will reduce the need for unnecessary travel across the rural county.

Patients can monitor their vital signs at home through the service and relay readings via a choice of communication channels to clinicians, who monitor trends and intervene if readings provide any cause for concern.

Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust is expanding the service with Inhealthcare to help increase life expectancy and improve quality of life for patients diagnosed with heart failure. The trust is rolling it out across rural Norfolk to provide extra support to newly referred people with the long-term condition.

Rhona Macpherson, the lead heart failure nurse at Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust, said: “We are expanding the service because it has been successful and we have found it to be very useful in making sure every patient has a care plan that is right for them.

“It gives extra support to patients at home and gives us the ability to monitor them very closely while promoting self-care. Our NHS colleagues across Norfolk are keen to get involved.”

The trust launched the service in Norwich and plans to expand it to south, west and north Norfolk with funding from the Norfolk and Waveney Integrated Care System (ICS).

The trust will carry out an evaluation of the expanded service, looking at quality of life, health improvement scores and hospital admissions among heart failure patients.

An 89-year-old patient, who used the service during the pandemic, enthused: “The system has provided reassurance. You know that information which could be significant in the way your health is going – whether it is stable or deteriorating – is being monitored and early action, for example, changed medication can be taken.

“You don’t have the problem of wondering who to phone, what to say, and then getting through to the right person. It gave me confidence that my state of health was being looked at all the time.”

Heart failure affects 900,000 people in the UK, and the number is likely to rise due to an ageing population, more effective treatments, and improved survival rates after a heart attack, according to the National Institute for Cardiovascular Outcomes Research. Despite high mortality rates, early diagnosis, optimal treatment and responsive management can increase life expectancy and improve quality of life for patients.

Bryn Sage, Chief Executive at Inhealthcare, concluded: “We are delighted to be helping Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust to provide remote monitoring services to more patients with heart failure. The service will cover a large geographic area and will reassure people at home they are being looked after at all times.”

The NHS is continuing to use remote and digital monitoring technologies, so that clinicians can easily monitor patients.

One such hospital is Beccles Hospital in Suffolk. Staff at the hospital are using a pioneering digital monitoring system with observations recorded using tablet devices, which helps to alert them when patients are deteriorating and links directly to patients’ GPs.

Centrally, NHS England has given hundreds of patients with Parkinson’s disease smartwatches to allow doctors to remotely assess their condition.

The cutting-edge wearable that contains sensors, known as a Parkinson’s Kinetigraph (PKG), is worn continuously for six days to monitor patients’ movements at home. It buzzes to remind patients to take medication, which they can confirm with a swipe.

The information the smartwatch collects is relayed to doctors who can look for signs that their medicines need changing, improving quality of life, or that make other interventions such as physiotherapy that can stop the condition from worsening.

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