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Steelman Bill shores up national campaign

Published: Monday, 07 May 2018

Steelman Bill shores up national campaign

A South Lanarkshire man has become the focal point of a campaign that could help thousands of Scots with high blood pressure.

Bill Fletcher (67) from Hamilton, South Lanarkshire, spent over 40 years working in the steel industry and now enjoys an active retirement.

The grandfather of four – who is a passionate football fan and photographer – said a recent string of headaches flagged up something wasn’t quite right. The problem turned out to be his blood pressure, which was significantly above the recommended level.

Thanks to telehealth, Bill’s been equipped and taught how to self-monitor his blood pressure and texts his readings from home every day. This has allowed him to maintain his active lifestyle with minimal trips to the surgery.

Bill said: “The system is so easy to use and has made all the difference to me and my family. And that lets me get on with the important things in life.”

Bill’s story, which can be read in full below, has emerged as the British Heart Foundation (BHF) Scotland, NHS 24’s Scottish Centre for Telehealth and Telecare, and the Scottish Government’s Technology Enabled Care Programme are working together in NHS Lanarkshire, NHS Lothian and NHS Western Isles to integrate remote monitoring of blood pressure using a digital health solution.

Nearly 30% of adults in Scotland have high blood pressure – also known as hypertension – and many of them are not receiving treatment because they don’t know they have it.

High blood pressure means the blood pressure is consistently higher than the recommended level. It often has no symptoms and people with the condition may feel perfectly well. However, if it’s left untreated, high blood pressure increases the risk of having a heart attack or stroke, and can lead to the development of heart failure, dementia and kidney failure.

That’s why new approaches are being tried to enable patients like Bill to better monitor and manage their blood pressure at home – giving them more control over their condition using a system that’s simple and convenient to use, and reducing the current demand for GP time spent on blood pressure monitoring.

The care model involves the person checking their blood pressure at home for an agreed period of time and simply texting the readings to the digital health system. If they are outwith the pre-agreed parameters, they will be advised what action to take.

Clinicians can also view real-time information about patients at any time.

There are several ways this digital technology can be applied in terms of both diagnosis and long term monitoring which this collaborative work will explore. It builds on earlier work completed through the Technology Enabled Care Programme and will help develop a model of care that will be both scaleable and sustainable.

Val de Souza, Director of Health and Social Care of South Lanarkshire Health & Social Care Partnership, said: “The progress our team have made in linking people into digital supports is significant. 

“Bill’s story personifies the benefits Telehealth is bringing to people in South Lanarkshire today. The fact he has become the focal point of this vitally important national drive is testament to the exemplary work that happening here at grassroots level.”


Richard Forsyth, Health Service Engagement Lead at BHF Scotland, said: “High blood pressure is a very common condition that can have devastating consequences. If you have it, you’re more likely to have a heart attack or a stroke. But it can usually be easily treated with medication and lifestyle changes, such as reducing salt intake, maintaining a healthy weight and being more physically active.

“That’s why we want to make sure more people understand their blood pressure, what the readings mean and how best to manage the condition.

“This innovative partnership with NHS 24's Scottish Centre for Telehealth and Telecare and the three health boards gives us the opportunity to improve diagnosis and management of high blood pressure without increasing the workload for GPs and practice nurses. The evidence from this project will be used to support the spread of this model across Scotland.”

Professor Brian McKinstry, Professor of eHealth at The University of Edinburgh and Clinical Lead for the project, said: “The evidence that supervised telemonitoring improves outcomes in the management of high blood pressure is conclusive. Our research now focuses on the best way to implement these findings into routine practice so that people become more involved in managing their own blood pressure and, critically, in a way that does not increase workload for frontline staff. This programme working across Scotland and in collaboration with the BHF will further support this work.”

The BHF funding is part of an overall £1.5 million package across the UK over the next three years, developing models of care which will aim to:
• Increase the detection of people who have undiagnosed high blood pressure
• Increase accessibility to blood pressure testing in the community
• Increase support for patient self-management and self-testing to become routine practice.
This additional funding will continue to support work that has already started in Scotland, which has been funded by Technology Enabled Care Programme.
The BHF is currently funding around £6million worth of research into high blood pressure in Scotland, studying the causes and treatment of the condition.

To find out more about high blood pressure and why it’s so important to know your numbers, visit: www.bhf.org.uk


Steelman Bill offered cast iron peace of mind thanks to the wonders of Telehealth
 
Bill Fletcher (67) from Hamilton, South Lanarkshire, spent over 40 years working in the steel industry and now enjoys an active retirement.

The grandfather of four – who is a passionate football fan and photographer – said a recent string of headaches flagged up something wasn’t quite right. The problem turned out to be his blood pressure, which was significantly above the recommended level.

“Apart from the headaches I’d felt absolutely fine - that was the scary thing about it,” says Bill. “I had no idea I had high blood pressure and the consequences of that, if it was left unchecked, could have been significant.

“I was relieved the problem was identified but at first I wondered how this diagnosis – and the need for regular checks and appointments – would affect my lifestyle.”

Thanks to telehealth, Bill has been able to maintain his active lifestyle with minimal trips to the surgery. He’s been equipped and taught how to self-monitor his blood pressure and texts his readings from home every day.

Bill continued: “The high blood pressure is now under control with medication and I have the peace of mind that I’m linked in to professionals and supported through the text system.

“The system is so easy to use and has made all the difference to me and my family. And that lets me get on with the important things in life – visiting my parents, who are both in their nineties, seeing my grandchildren, and supporting my football team, Motherwell!”

Find out more about Bill’s experience by watching this short clip: https://vimeo.com/259839666