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Victory for patient as NHS Trust rethinks its decision on Telehealth service

A patient who began legal action against his local NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has been successful in compelling the group to revisit its decision to close its Telehealth service and to conduct a consultation with patients.

Blood pressure monitor

29 September 2017

The CCG also confirmed that it will continue to fund the Telehealth service until the decision on its future has been revisited.

Ian Wyness, represented by law firm Leigh Day, wrote several letters before action to NHS Kernow CCG to argue that its decision to decommission the Telehealth service was unlawful.

The Telehealth service allows the remote exchange of information between patients and doctors from patients’ own homes. It works by monitoring vital signs, such as blood pressure, and transmitting the data via a telephone line or broadband to a Telehealth monitoring centre or healthcare professional where it can be monitored against parameters set by the patient’s clinician. The service is used to assist in diagnosis and monitoring, typically in relation to long term conditions such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), Chronic Heart Failure, diabetes and epilepsy.

Mr Wyness, 55, of Davidstowe in Cornwall, has used the service since 2012 in order to monitor his severe heart condition. He believes it is a vital part of his care package and has been rushed to hospital previously when the service noted a drop-in blood pressure, with hospital staff telling him he had arrived just in time.

A decision was made by Kernow CCG’s governing body on 1 November 2016 to decommission the Telehealth service with a 12-month notice period. This decision was taken in private and not proactively communicated to service users at that time. 

Mr Wyness was finally informed of the decision on 20 June 2017, over half-way through the notice period.

On 4 July Mr Wyness received a phone call to inform him that he would be contacted about returning his Telehealth equipment. Ten days later Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, who runs the service, threatened to turn off his equipment from 28 July 2017. They have subsequently agreed not to remove Mr Wyness's equipment.

In a letter before action, sent to the CCG on behalf of Mr Wyness, it was argued that the decision to decommission the Telehealth service was unlawful on the following grounds:
  • failure to conduct a lawful consultation
  • breach of the public-sector equality duty
  • rationality (due the failure to disclose the reasons why the decision was taken)

In the letter Mr Wyness asked the CCG to retake the decision, including a consultation with service users, the results of which should be taken into account in any decision-making. He also asked that the CCG continue funding the service until the decision on its future is retaken.

Mr Wyness said:

“Since being a Telehealth user for almost six years it has been invaluable to me and my carers to monitor my chronic heart and other conditions.
 
“Telehealth gives me and my carers piece of mind and security knowing I am being monitored.
 
“Telehealth has on many occasions helped my carers check my condition when I am very unwell to the point they have had to press my lifeline for emergency help. The most recent case was when my carer did a night check and had to call an ambulance, on this occasion my condition was very serious and the Telehealth service enabled my carer to spot this quickly and take immediate action.
 
“I feel this service is vital to the hundreds of patients in Cornwall who have some very serious conditions and I am glad that the CCG has decided to retake its decision and consult with users of the service.”

Rowan Smith, lawyer at Leigh Day, who represented Mr Wyness, said:

“We are glad that Kernow CCG has finally recognised that their original decision to decommission the Telehealth service was unlawful and we are very pleased that they have now agreed to resolve the issue by consulting with service users and retaking the decision.”

The consultation is due to begin in mid-September and the CCG Governing Body will reconsider the decision no earlier than December 2017.

Information was correct at time of publishing. See terms and conditions for further details.

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