NHS Highland is freeing up space in health centres to expand its video-consulting service across the region – saving patients in remote location from travelling long distances to Inverness.
The ambitious plans will soon see Near Me rooms operate from almost 20 locations – with plans to expand it further into people’s homes.
As well as the staffed clinics being put in place in four of the board’s community hospitals, patients can now use unstaffed rooms in seven different locations, with another eight to follow.
The board ultimately aims for most patients to be able to attend outpatient appointments from their own homes using video devices on their computers, smartphones or tablets.
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NHS Highland’s Near Me lead Clare Morrison said: “Our experience of using NHS Near Me in Caithness, and an earlier project using video consulting technology at home, showed that not everyone has a smartphone, computer or good internet connection.
“That’s why we have put these unstaffed rooms in, so everyone can access the NHS Near Me Service.”
Unstaffed rooms are already in place at the Dunbar Hospital in Thurso, the Migdale Hospital at Bonar Bridge, and the Small Isles Medical Practice on Eigg.
NHS Near Me facilities were added at three locations in Sutherland – Assynt Medical Centre in Lochinver, the Kinlochbervie Medical Practice, and the Bettyhill Nurse Base.
Facilities have also been set up in the Gairloch Medical Practice, Wester Ross.
Over the next couple of months devices will be installed in Ullapool, Raasay, Kyle of Lochalsh, Fort Augustus, Mallaig, Strontian, Grantown, and Kingussie.
Three staffed NHS Near Me clinics have been set up at Caithness General Hospital in Wick, Lawson Memorial Hospital in Golspie, and Portree Hospital on Skye.
A further two staffed clinics are planned at the Belford Hospital, Fort William, and in the new-build hospital in Aviemore.
The reason for staffed clinics is that some appointments require clinical support for the patient, like a blood test or blood pressure check.
Highlands and Islands Regional MSP and shadow minister for health David Stewart said: “The positives are there for all to see – a reduction in having to travel long distances for what at times is a short appointment time, a reduction in the anxiety and stress caused by having to travel distance to be seen by a doctor or consultant, a positive impact with regards to reducing expenses related to travel and hopefully a reduction with regards to waiting times and a knock on benefit of quicker diagnosis.”