One of the health service’s most senior figures has recognised the positive impact of telehealth as part of an ongoing shift to more community-based primary care, as a solution to help GPs manage patients with long-term conditions.

Dr Martin McShane, NHS England’s Director for Improving the Quality of Life for People with Long-Term Conditions, spoke to the Guardian about the challenges posed by patients with chronic conditions, warning that they are threatening to ‘overwhelm’ the NHS.

According to research carried out by York University, a patient with three chronic medical conditions costs the NHS £2,559 a year, a stark contrast to that of a healthy patient who costs approximately £288.

Professor Chris Ham, Chief Executive of the King’s Fund health think-tank, who was also interviewed for the feature said: “The NHS and social care have been slow to rise to the twin challenges of an ageing population and increased prevalence of long-term conditions like diabetes. There is now an urgent need to transform how GPs treat people with these conditions.”

Dr McShane recommended that in order to meet the growing demands of an ageing population, family doctors need to invest in additional training to enable them to better manage complex cases, and to encourage patients to take control of their own health and reduce their dependence on the national health service.

Care and support minister Norman Lamb agreed with McShane. He told the Guardian: “We want to build a fairer society, and that means providing better care to people with long-term conditions so that they are able to enjoy an independent, fulfilling life, and have the support needed to manage their health. The government’s planned £3.8bn-a-year Better Care Fund will fund the integration of health and social care services so patients can live independently for as long as possible.”

Read the interview featuring Dr McShane, Chris Ham and Norman Lamb.