Four universities have been given £2.3 million for a project that will see the creation of "virtual therapists" to help sufferers of chronic medical conditions.
The consortium, which is led by Sheffield Hallam's Centre for Health and Social Care Research, comprises Ulster, Bath and Sheffield universities. Patients will receive support not only through home visits but also by remote contact with therapists through the use of sensors and computers in their homes.
The 60 participants in the trial will include people recovering from heart attacks and strokes, and those who are managing chronic pain.
Gail Mountain, director of the Centre for Health and Social Care Research and the project's leader, said: "The number of people in the UK with chronic conditions such as enduring pain, heart failure or stroke will continue to grow as our population ages.
"The Government is worried about the resource implications of providing quality rehabilitation to increasing numbers of people," said Professor Mountain. "Many countries have already adopted self-management practices for long-term care that have been shown to have other benefits in terms of employment, social inclusion and wellbeing. It's an ideal time to see how the UK can lead the way on introducing cutting-edge technologies for the rehabilitation of chronically ill people."
The project funding allows for further research via the award of PhD studentships. It will also serve as an information hub to network with associated research developments and look at ways in which everyday technology, such as texting, can be integrated into the system.