A revolutionary model of care for patients in one of the remotest parts of the Highlands is performing better than rest of UK, says its NHS Highland coordinator.
Last week, the Press and Journal revealed that A9 journeys from Caithness to Inverness for outpatient appointments had risen since the launch of Near Me video appointments.
But in a defence of the service yesterday, NHS Near Me manager Clare Morrison said more people are using the service saving thousands of miles and patient and clinic time.
Ms Morrison said: “From January to July 2018 during the development phase, 191 patients were seen by Near Me. Since August 2018, 597 patients have been seen by Near Me.
“Last month, 139 patients had an appointment by NHS Near Me instead of being asked to travel to Raigmore, and the vast majority of these were Caithness patients.
“Nowhere else in Scotland or indeed the UK is as far ahead as we are – that’s why a team from NHS Improvement are coming to see us next week.
“No model existed that could simply be plugged in to NHS Highland. A service had to be created from scratch.”
Ms Morrison, continued: “We understand that patients would like us to provide more outpatient appointments by NHS Near Me, and we are striving to do so.
“We believe that the staged approach we have taken over the past year to develop a high quality service with patients, clinicians and staff, and then put the infrastructure in across NHS Highland, was the right thing to do.
“It means we now have sound building blocks from which to deliver NHS Near Me at scale for patients across NHS Highland.
“This would not have been achieved by rushing in a quick fix which research tells us would have failed. We are very grateful to the patients who have worked with us to develop NHS Near Me over the past year.”
Ron Gunn from CHAT, Caithness Health Action Team campaign group said: “We don’t want to be seen to be anti Near Me. In fact we are supportive of anything that makes it easier for people to get good advice from specialists and consultants without having to make the trip to Raigmore in Inverness.
“We had hoped that by this stage we would have had more patients using the new service.”