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GP Access, Telehealth, ICU, Sewage

Telehealth - providing health monitoring or advice at a distance using technology - has been heralded as a cost-effective way to better medical care. Is it delivering benefits?

Do you have trouble getting an appointment to see your GP? If so, you are not alone. A Department of Health review from 2009 suggested that as many as 200,000 patients a day struggle to get a consultation with their doctor. And a quarter of those who want to book an appointment in advance simply can't. One Inside Health listener emailed us to ask why some surgeries seem to only release appointments on the day - a bit of a telephone lottery - and others do allow for some advance booking. Chair of the the Royal College of General Practitioners Dr Clare Gerada offers some insight.

Monitoring patients in their own homes - telehealth - is one of the latest developments in general practice.
The government hopes that the technology will help at least 2 million people over the next 5 years, saving the NHS more than a billion pounds. The £2,000 black boxes measure blood pressure, blood sugar levels and blood oxygen - information that's then sent over the internet to a medical professional. But the project to monitor patients with long term conditions like diabetes, heart failure and breathing difficulties hasn't got off to a good start and GP Margaret McCartney questions whether it will ever live up to the hype.

The most seriously ill patients in hospital are looked after in Intensive Care - where they are given life-saving treatment and support with vital bodily functions like breathing. To help staff relieve anxiety - and enable staff to carry out procedures like inserting breathing tubes - patients are often sedated. Dr Chris Danbury from the Royal Berkshire hospital in Reading says it's important to get the level of sedation right - not too little and not too much. One consequence of the drugs and environment can be hallucinations and flashbacks - with some patients reporting dreams of being abducted by alien space ships. Specialist outreach nurses in Reading - like Sister Melanie Gager - are skilled at offering strategies to overcome this - including follow-up visits to the ICU for both patients and their families.

Now that summer has finally arrived for most parts of the UK, if you are planning an outdoor swim then there may be hazards lurking in the water. Heavy downpours result in the release of sewage into the sea from overflow pipes - which can affect water quality for a couple of days. Inside Health reporter Anna Lacey met Pollution Control Manager Dr Robert Kierle on the banks of the river Axe in Weston-Super-Mare - and Surfers Against Sewage who are offering a free text service to alert would-be bathers about local measurements of any pollutants.

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28 minutes