EQUIPMENT that will allow people with chronic illnesses to be monitored in their homes via iPads and smartphones is to be rolled out to 300,000 households over the next two years.

The £10 million NHS "telehealth" scheme is mainly aimed at elderly patients with conditions such as diabetes or heart and lung complaints. It has been given the go ahead following a successful trial in Ayrshire.

The use of the devices there saw a fall of up to 70 per cent in hospital admissions as doctors were alerted to any deterioration in patients' conditions at an early stage avoiding the need for ­emergency treatment.

The initiative was announced by Health Secretary Alex Neil at a major conference in Glasgow yesterday.

He also said that a new ­innovation fund is being created, to finance the development of new technologies for use in the health service. The Government will invest £100,000 in the fund initially, although it is also hoped that it will attract ­investment from Europe and the private sector.

Mr Neil said that he planned to push ahead with innovation at a scale that was "unprecedented".

He argued that it could save the NHS money at the same time as improving experiences for patients.

He added: "There has been a streak of new ideas. We want to support innovators and innovation with hard cash.

"This is not to fund what we're already doing, this is to fund new ideas that will help us to transform the health service.

"It's about making sure that we are at the leading edge, not just in the UK and Europe, but globally in terms of delivery of a high quality service to our patients."

Mr Neil also paid tribute to NHS staff and launched a staunch defence of the health service north of the Border, which he said was the best performing in the UK.

Although he admitted that a damning Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland report on dementia units, published earlier this week, was "a disgrace", he said the positive work in the NHS "far, far outweighs all the stuff that goes wrong."

In a separate announcement, Mr Neil said a new system for giving patients a stronger voice in the running of the health service would be presented before the end of the year. Dr Brian Keighley, chairman of British Medical ­Association Scotland, welcomed the move.

He said: "The NHS in Scotland should be built around the needs and rights of patients, and be ready to change in response to patient feedback.

"Listening and engaging with patients, as well as with doctors, nurses and other healthcare staff, is fundamental to providing a quality service that meets the needs of those who use it."