Dr Ram Kumar of Alder Hey Children's Hospital with Dr Liz Mear, CEO of NWCAHSN, which is funding the programme

Video links bring specialist care to sick children

A new telemedicine scheme will let specialists consult with young patients in far-flung areas through video link, reducing the need to make lengthy journeys.

The project at Liverpool’s Alder Hey Children’s Hospital will allow paediatric consultants to use video technology to review and assess children living with chronic neurological conditions at locations as far afield as Bangor and the Isle of Man, saving time and resources and making it easier for patients to access expert consultation.

The £50,000 programme is funded and supported by the North West Coast Academic Health Science Network (NWCAHSN).

This scheme removes the need for families to make tiring journeys to see specialists and allows consultants to work with local GPs in the regions to schedule appointments and consultations. As well as the benefits created for families, the programme will also enable specialist consultants to spend more time dealing with their case loads and less on travelling to distant outreach clinics.

Over the next nine months the scheme will be introduced at Southport and Ormskirk NHS Trust, Warrington and Halton Hospitals and the Isle of Man. Potentially it might then be rolled out across other practice areas including cardiology, endocrinology and psychiatry.

Consultant paediatric neurologist Dr Ram Kumar, who is spearheading the programme, explained: “At present, families and sick children are having to travel significant distances to attend consultations with Alder Hey’s specialist paediatric neurologists or the consultants are required to travel to outreach clinics in locations as far afield as the Isle of Man. This can mean a round trip of more than ten hours, often to have a 20-minute face-to-face consultation.”

The tele-consultation involves a discussion with a child and their family, a local paediatrician and a specialist from Alder Hey via a video link either in a clinic room, or by using a tele-cart at the child’s bedside.

NWCAHSN chief executive Dr Liz Mear said: “It’s crucial that the NHS taps into and harnesses innovative new technology to deliver the best results possible for both staff and users and we’re delighted to be working with the fantastic team at Alder Hey to help make this vision a reality.”

Many patients with neurological illnesses have chronic disabling conditions that require long-term follow-up and the majority of children can be managed in secondary care, where a locally-based paediatrician works in partnership with a neurological specialist to deliver a specialist care package.

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