Broadband in the Highlands not "near us" enough says Mountain
A Highlands and Islands MSP is claiming that the full potential of NHS Highland's "Near Me" service could be seriously impacted if Holyrood does not deliver on its R100 programme by 2021.
Edward Mountain's comment came today (Tuesday, June 11) after an update on the Sir Lewis Ritchie report on health care on Skye.
"The main limitation for use for NHS Near Me at home is availability of broadband in the remote and rural parts of the area," states the report.
R100, or the Reaching 100% programme, is the SNP’s flagship to roll out super-fast broadband to 100% of Scotland’s inhabitants by 2021.
In a written answer to the Scottish Parliament on Friday (June 7) the SNP Government admitted there had been unexpected delays.
"They won’t even sign a contract to deliver this flagship policy until the end of 2019," said Mr Mountain (Scottish Conservatives).
He raised the issue at Holyrood during Topical Questions, asking:
"Given that NHS Highland relies on superfast broadband to deliver it’s 'Near Me” treatment service, do you agree with me that the failure to deliver R100 on time is bad for the health of Highlanders?"
The Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands said that the Highlands “has been well-served by the investment this government is making” and highlighted a 58.3% increase in superfast broadband coverage in the region.
The minister continued: “I do agree with him that access to broadband is extremely important for new innovation areas such as health innovation. And clearly through CivTech, and other measures, we are actually pioneering new approaches to uses of digital technology in the NHS Highland area.”
Following their exchange, Mr Mountain commented: “NHS Near Me offers a vital way for Highlanders, living in the remotest parts of the region, to access health care.
"It is a great innovation but the full potential of the service is being held back by the Scottish Government’s mishandling of their R100 programme.
"A longer wait for superfast broadband is simply unacceptable.
"The Highlands needs to be fully connected so that our rural health service can make the technological advances it needs.”