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Telephone - the smart move in urgent and emergency care

Using the telephone to find the type of urgent care that best suits your situation can save time and makes the best use of NHS resources. That's the message from NHS Direct - one of the leading lights in Telecare.

Dr Mike Sadler, chief operating officer of NHS Direct is sharing this approach with healthcare professionals attending the urgent and emergency care conference at the International Centre, Telford.

Following countless calls from overstretched A&E departments this Christmas, Mike Sadler say: "Telecare can help people navigate through the maze of emergency admissions and help managers cope with the capacity issues and the demand on services, but it needs both national and local support for these improvements to be realised.

"The fact that so many people turned to NHS Direct over the recent Christmas and New Year holiday period demonstrates the popularity of this type of healthcare. People like having a service that fits in with their lifestyle and helps them choose how best to handle their healthcare situation; it also provides the opportunity for early intervention and promotes self care.

"From a service provider point of view, it has proved to be a tremendous asset in helping cope with health alerts - as the recent Polonium incident demonstrates - it helps identify those that need follow-up and navigates them to the right place; it gives those that didn't need follow-up the facts and reassurance that they aren't at risk.

"As well as pointing people in the right direction, Telecare can improve the way we treat patients with long-term health problems, such as diabetes, depression and heart disease. NHS Direct's Birmingham Own Health project has been very successful in giving people with cardiovascular disease (CVD), heart failure and/or diabetes a personalised healthcare support over the telephone. The service is designed to help people get the best health outcomes from treatment programmes already agreed with their GP and/or other healthcare professionals.

"17.5 million people in the UK are coping with these long-term conditions. We need to rethink how to support carers and patients who are the people best placed to manage the illness and improve their wellbeing.

"Increasing the amount of care delivered at home can improve not only people's access to care, but also the quality and efficiency of care delivered. One way to do this is by making better use of telephony."