NHS North West has given backing to a cardiac telemedicine service after two successful pilot projects.

Studies byCumbriaand Lancashire SHA and Greater Manchester and Cheshire Cardiac Network have shown the system has potential for substantially reducing A&E attendance by offering a sophisticated ECG service in primary care.

NHS North West says the pilots show significant financial savings as well as improved outcomes for patients.

Both pilots used Broomwell Healthwatch in which GPs and other healthcare professionals have access to immediate, expert interpretation of ECGs by experienced cardiology-trained clinicians.

Primary care clinicians use the hand-held 12-lead ECG machine in the same way as a conventional machine. When the ECG is complete, it is transmitted as a sound signal by landline telephone in 45 seconds to Broomwell’s monitoring centre, where it is displayed on screen for interpretation by experienced clinicians.

Broomwell experts then give an immediate verbal interpretation by phone. A full written ECG report is also sent to the GP surgery by email or fax for inclusion in the patient record.

GMC Cardiac Network evaluated use of the system over 12 months in 38 surgeries across four PCTs where GPs used it on 3,406 patients.

Doctors reported that they without the telecare service they would have referred 58 per cent of these patients to hospital for an ECG.

The six-month pilot inCumbriaandLancashireinvolved 15 GP practices and two NHS walk-in centres.

Data showed 82% of patients receiving ECGs did not need to go to hospital (neither A&E nor outpatients) following the test.

NHS North West says the system is now being used in 150 practices in 10 PCTs across the region.

Joe Rafferty, Director of Commissioning and Performance at NHS North West, said: “The deployment of Broomwell’s service across Greater Manchester has proven to be extremely successful. Using telemedicine to bring essential health services closer to patients in a primary care setting is beneficial to both patients and the NHS, and I think a service such as this has the potential to make a great deal of difference to health services across the UK.”