HEALTH chiefs in North Yorkshire have defended buying thousands of expensive health systems which monitor patients in their own homes, despite the fact that only a fraction of the units are in use.

NHS North Yorkshire and York Primary Care Trust (PCT) has spent almost £1.8 million on telehealth systems since 2009 but currently has only 670 patients using them, out of a stock of 2,120, The Press has learned.

The news comes as trust bosses gather this morning in York to announce where a number of spending cuts are to be made as the region faces a £19 million health deficit.

The trust tested 120 of the systems in 2009 and later decided to buy 2,000 more in phase two of the project, from April last year.

Jim Clark, head of North Yorkshire County Council’s health scrutiny committee, said financing telehealth needed to be “sorted out”.

With North Yorkshire and York PCT set to be disbanded in April, and health spending handed over to GP-led clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), PCT assistant director of strategy Kerry Wheeler said there were “ongoing discussions” with all of the CCGs across the region on the management of patients on telehealth.

She said: “The vast majority of these units are deployed by NHS staff working in the community – providing care either close to or in people’s own homes. These services and the staff associated with them are managed by hospital trusts.

“I’d like to stress that nearly 1,200 patients in our area have benefited from using telehealth. The units have helped health professionals monitor patient’s medication, help them comply with medication regimes and educate them to manage their conditions better. A recent patient survey also showed telehealth was having a positive impact on family members and carers.”