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Public views sought on remote delivery of health and care services

By Alasdair Fraser

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Cartoon of a virtual consultation with a GP
Cartoon of a virtual consultation with a GP

People in the Highlands are being asked for their views on how future health and care services might be delivered remotely.

The use of video consultations in Scotland has escalated rapidly since the Covid-19 pandemic began.

Prior to March, there were around 300 video consultations through the Near Me system but by June there were almost 17,000 every week, with around 150,000 in total.

In Highland, the numbers have risen more than tenfold in this period from 86 to 1,166 per week, with 10,138 in total.

This has prompted the Scottish Government team behind Near Me to launch a major engagement exercise to discover what people think about the system and how it may be improved.

The Government’s vision, as laid out at the website www.nearme.scot/views, is for all health and care consultations in Scotland to be provided by Near Me whenever appropriate.

The Near Me team – part of a national programme known as Technology Enabled Care – is looking for feedback through a survey which can be completed online.

There is also the option to feed-back by email or by phone.

Dr Paul Davidson, NHS Highland’s Deputy Medical Director (Community), said: “Near Me video consulting is proving to be vital for those who deliver and receive health and social care during the pandemic and is being extensively used throughout Highland, as well as supporting patients in the Western Isles.

“It has enabled services to continue to be provided without potential exposure to Covid-19 and has significantly reduced the number of people coming into health and social care premises.

“It has therefore made an important contribution to reducing the risk of the infection spreading. It is important that we plan now for the future post-Covid 19 – and residents in Highland have a part to play in that.

“I would urge people to check out the Near Me vision and give their feedback on it.”

Near Me, which was developed and tested in Scotland in 2018 and 2019, was initially used mainly in the Highlands, where distances can be an issue.

However, it has come into its own during the lockdown and is being increasingly used in hospitals, GP and community services throughout the country.

National Clinical Director Jason Leitch checks out some Near Me literature
National Clinical Director Jason Leitch checks out some Near Me literature

People offered a Near Me video consultation at home need to have a device for making a video call, such as a smartphone, tablet or computer with webcam, as well as a

reliable internet connection.

To use the system, patients are given a link to a Near Me clinic and can start their video call from this link.

The system asks the patient to enter his or her name and date of birth, with the individual then held in a secure ‘virtual’ waiting room until the clinician joins the video call. The consultation then takes place as normal.

Clare Morrison, who co-leads the national Near Me programme having previously helped to introduce the system to the Highlands, said: “Throughout the country health and care providers, as well as patients, have been embracing the use of Near Me in recent months.

“This experience has made many people realise its true potential, hence our vision. However, as we plan ahead we want to understand what the general public thinks about Near Me and its future use, and we hope our survey will allow us to do that.”

The Near Me public engagement exercise will run from today to Friday July 24.

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