The NHS is missing out on annual efficiency savings worth up to £2bn by failing to embrace remote monitoring and care, according to a report shared with HSJ.

Telehealth can reduce demand for face-to-face services and expensive acute care but there is currently “no strategic drive for telehealth at scale” in the NHS, according to the Healthcare Without Walls report - due to be published next Wednesday by think tank 2020health.

It says: “Whilst some commissioning bodies are showing firm leadership [on telehealth]… most are citing the impending shift in power to the GP commissioning consortia as a reason for inertia.”

The report, by 2020health consultant director and NHS IT consultant John Cruikshank, says the government “needs to take some key actions” to push uptake. These include pushing for rapid publication of results from three large government sponsored telehealth trials, which have been running since 2007. The report says findings due early next year are expected to show “a convincing business and clinical case for telehealth”.

The report says evidence suggests widespread use of telehealth in the NHS could give a net annual saving of £2bn, but acknowledges this would only apply if the technology is accompanied by pathway redesign.

Sir John Oldham, who is responsible for the long term conditions services strand within the quality, innovation, productivity and prevention programme, said the NHS had to be careful when designing telehealth services to make sure they deliver savings.

He said: “Just jumping to put technology into people’s houses is not the answer to reducing unscheduled admissions. You also have to change the way community teams operate and teach people how to deal with their own conditions.”