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Scottish Government seeks views on NHS video consulting service

By Gregor White

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The Near Me service allows consultations to take place by video link.
The Near Me service allows consultations to take place by video link.

NHS Highland is urging patients to give feedback on the Near Me video consultation service.

The use of video consultations in Scotland by health services has rapidly escalated since the Covid-19 pandemic started.

Prior to March, there were around 300 video consultations using 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 in this period from 86 to 1166 per week, with 10,138 in total.

Now the Scottish Government team behind Near Me has launched a major engagement exercise to find out what people think about how the system might be improved for the future.

The government’s vision is that all health and care consultations in Scotland are provided by Near Me whenever it is 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."

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, and 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.

The patient is then held in a secure ‘virtual’ waiting room until the clinician joins the video call and 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 and 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 think about Near Me and its future use, and we hope our survey will allow us to do that."

The survey, which can be accessed here asks a range questions relating to Near Me.

For example, it asks if people are comfortable with the idea of using more video consulting for health and care appointments; if there are any barriers to them using Near Me and if they have been using video technology to stay socially connected with friends and family.

It is intended to publish the survey’s findings alongside other feedback which will then influence the future use of Near Me.

The Near Me public engagement exercise runs until Friday, July 24.

General information about Near Me is available at www.nearme.scot

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