The government claims it can save £1.2 billion over five years through the wider use of telecare technology.

In a speech to a telecare conference this week health minister Paul Burstow said telecare can help people to live more independent lives and stay in control of their care. It also means, he said, patients no longer have to wait at home for the doctor or district nurse to call to check vital signs, and they spend less time in NHS waiting rooms.

Burstow said: "The widespread adoption of telehealth and telecare as part of an integrated care plan will mean better quality of care and greater independence for people with long-term conditions. It could save the NHS up to £1.2 billion over five years."

Following trials the government says telecare can lead to a 20 percent fall in emergency admissions and 15 percent fewer visits to A&E.

Burstow said "we need local providers and local commissioners to look at the needs of their communities and make decisions based on the clinical and social needs of their patients".

He added: "If technology can help then we need to remove all barriers to it playing its part."

Burstow said the NHS should be able to roll-out telecare systems without having to pay large upfront costs.

He said providers should meet these initial costs and then charge the NHS on a per use basis for each patient in a telecare scheme on a monthly basis. NHS Gloucestershire was paying for its telecare system from Tunstall using this formula, said Burstow.