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Couple lose lifeline as medical aid falls victim to cuts

This tiny gadget helps keep people with long term illnesses out of hospital. Credit: ITV West Country

A pioneering scheme to help keep people with long term illnesses out of hospital is being ditched by health authorities in Cornwall, because they say they can no longer afford the service.

Telehealth helps medical staff to remotely monitor patients and intervene before their symptoms become an emergency.

But next week it will no longer be supplied to their homes.

Jill Diggett from Bodmin has a whole host of medical conditions including pulmonary fibrosis, asthma, and rheumatoid arthritis - every breath she takes is a struggle. She told our reporter Claire Manning that the little gadget has changed her and her husband's lives.

CLAIRE: "So Jill tell me how much of difference Telehealth has made to you having it in your home?"

JILL: "An amazing difference, it has taken a lot of strain away from my husband and from me really because I can also see a picture of where I am. It's very difficult to put a price on it but I would like it very much to stay."

– Jill Diggett
The Diggetts say Telehealth has kept Jill out of hospital since they started using it. Credit: ITV West Country

The Telehealth Scheme means Jill's husband Howard, who's her full time carer, can monitor her health at home. Among other things, Telehealth checks her blood pressure, oxygen levels and any infections.

If there's a problem a medic will advise how to treat yourself or ultimately call for an ambulance.

NHS Kernow is now withdrawing Telehealth, partly due to funding. Howard believes that's short-sighted. When you consider since Jill started using Telehealth in January, they've only called an ambulance once and Jill's had no hospital stays.

Last year Jill was in and out of hospital nine times, I worked it out the other day it was about nearly two months over all that she was in and out of hospital.

If we were upstairs in the middle of the night and she woke up totally breathless.... the only thing I could do was phone an ambulance. You phone the doctors' surgery and they'll say, well you'd better dial 999 which I was doing.

This year it's all been caught early because I am doing these tests and examinations and they're done by 11 o'clock in the morning and they are uploaded to the nurse and she can spot any anomalies straight away."

– Howard Diggett, Jill's husband and carer

Given the costs of an ambulance call out and hospital stays, Howard believes cutting the Telehealth service will be a false economy.

Nothing can improve Jill's health, not even Telehealth but what it can do, say Jill and Howard, is give them both peace of mind - and in their opinion save the NHS money

NHS Kernow has issued the following statement:

Our Governing Body reviewed the broad range of supporting evidence that demonstrated the service did not have significantly robust clinical evidence for effectiveness and did not demonstrate the desired outcomes that we would expect to see.

Monitoring of someone's health indicators can be provided by a GP, community services or by the person, if they are supported to understand their health readings.

– NHS Kernow