TWO major Telehealth and Telecare programmes worth �2.8 million were officially launched today by the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing Alex Neil MSP when he visited a local monitoring station within East Ayrshire Council.

Using technology to deliver healthcare to people in their homes is increasingly becoming a key part of transforming patients' lives and this latest initiative will bring benefits to those living with long term conditions in central and southern parts of Scotland.

The Minister heard first hand, via video link from Dalmellington resident, Mrs Jessie Chalmers, who told the minister how the technology has made a real difference to how she has been able to manage her COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease).

Health Secretary Alex Neil said: "These projects are a fantastic example of how using innovative technologies as part of effective service redesign can enable people to be treated as close to home as possible and reduce the need for hospital admissions.

"Scotland has already made significant progress on developing and expanding new technologies, and by delivering these two projects across the same geographical area will enable us to expand even further the role technology plays in supporting 21st century healthcare." Great-grandmother Jessie, who will celebrate her 74th birthday in May, said: "When the practice first suggested one of the pods, I wasn't sure, but the longer I use the pod the more confidence I get. When I go out I know how far I can go before I need to use my inhaler. The pod monitors my oxygen level, pulse and sputum, so I know if I'm getting a chest infection and can start taking my antibiotics. It also gives me confidence to talk to my doctor about what I think is wrong." The programmes are being jointly funded by the European Commission and the Scottish Government and are part of the Digital Health and Care Innovation Partnership (DHCIP) aimed at utilising new technologies to support people with disabilities and/or health conditions in their own homes or communities.

The three-year-programmes, United4Health and SmartCare, will operate within seven local health and care partnerships across Ayrshire & Arran, East Renfrewshire, Renfrewshire and Clyde Valley concentrating on the management of long term health conditions, dementia care and falls prevention.

The United4Health programme will give patients living with diabetes, COPD or heart failure a central role in the management of their condition. It will do this through home based monitoring of a patient's health and wellbeing. This enables earlier detection of worsening health, supporting self management and early treatment that helps avoid hospitalisation and/or early discharge from hospital for patients who can be monitored at home during recovery.

The SmartCare programme will link service provision across health, social care, family, informal carers and the voluntary sector. It will utilise technology to support the health, care and wellbeing for the over 50s with a specific focus on falls prevention and dementia care.

Professor George Crooks, NHS 24 Medical Director, and leader of the Scottish Centre for Telehealth and Telecare, said: "Scotland is recognised worldwide as a leader in innovative telehealth and telecare services and products. Smartcare and United4Health are key programmes which will bring investment and technology to Scotland. As part of the wider investment in Telehealth and Telecare, they will further assist in the integration and effective delivery of health and care services, while empowering users and carers to actively manage their own health, care and wellbeing and maintain their independence." Mandy Yule, Director of Integrated Care and Partner Services, NHS Ayrshire & Arran, added: "Telehealthcare is already making a real difference to the quality of life of patients living with a long term condition. This kind of technology will further enable people to become more confident and independent, while also giving them the reassurance of immediate support and monitoring by health and social care professionals." Councillor Douglas Reid, Chair of East Ayrshire Community health Partnership and leader of East Ayrshire Council said: "In East Ayrshire we already operate an integrated telecare system in our risk management centre, serving over 3000 people, with state of the technology. This is supported by the very human face of our mobile carers who are available 24 hours per day, 365 days per year.

"Along with our NHS colleagues we see this as a real opportunity to integrate telehealth to our existing infrastructure. We recognise that this will deliver real positive outcomes for individual people and will also contribute to the sustainability of our future health and social care services." NHS 24 has been appointed by the Scottish Government to provide overall leadership and financial governance for both programmes in Scotland, with additional support provided by the Joint Improvement Team.