There’s no place for gags about the Samaritans. Plus, commissioners must not rule out telehealth yet

Bad joke

No, you shouldn’t joke about the Samaritans (End Game, 3 May). Seeking help from the Samaritans is not,at any level, funny. Thank goodness the people who have donated over £1m in honour of Claire Squires don’t think so anyway.

Generally, I love your work, but not this week.

Lisa Rodrigues, chief executive, Sussex Partnership Foundation Trust

Age gap

Whether or not “age is the key factor” for any fair NHS resource allocation will be known only when the advisory committee on resource allocation’s “number crunchers” have properly accomplished their work (news, page 7, 3 May). But John Appleby’s adverse comment can be questioned here and now. Mr Lansley may or may not be right to claim that the service-need component of the current formula is seriously out of balance, between the profiles for age and deprivation that largely determine that component. But what is the relevance of that question to the present treatment of Mr Appleby’s 85-year-olds under the current formula? Am I missing something?

Mervyn Stone, Ruislip,

Give telehealth a chance

Some GPs have called on the Department of Health to explain the £1.2bn savings figure used when it launched the 3 Million Lives programme to have three million patients using telehealth technology in the next five years. The call came shortly after the Nuffield Trust said returns from the evaluation of the whole system demonstrator pilot showed “very disappointing results in emergency admissions” (news, page 5, 8 March).

With 6,000 participants, the whole system demonstrator programme the largest randomised controlled trial of telecare and telehealth anywhere in the world and it is a complex piece of research.

My concern is that superficial analysis of the trial’s results will be used to undermine the DH figure by those who question the value of telehealth.

Yes we need further evidence that telehealth works but a great deal of evidence exists already. We should examine the whole system demonstrator results carefully but in the meantime let’s not tarnish telehealth and the substantial benefits it brings to the patients. The costs of telehealth services are falling and commissioners do not have to invest in expensive kit - especially if it is on a pay-as-you-use basis. In addition, the technology is changing fast. Telehealth can now be combined with the latest social media applications which have been shown to engage patients in their treatment. It is also adaptable to local needs and that means large scale programmes can be rolled out quickly.

So my plea to commissioners is to give telehealth a chance. Work with providers to prove its benefits and do not be swayed by the negative press that we have seen in recent weeks. We now have the chance to make a real difference to millions of people who suffer from long term conditions and our aim must be a partnership that helps to improve peoples’ lives.

Stewart Maxwell, managing director, Numera Health