Medics to review patients over the internet after GPs in Scottish Highlands retire
An online telehealth booth is being set up in the remote Scottish Highlands, where patients will be diagnosed by doctors in an emergency care centre via an internet satellite call.
Located on the most westerly point on mainland Britain, Ardnamurchan has recently seen both its GPs and district nurse retire, leaving residents with no out-of hours or emergency cover, with the nearest hospital being at least two hours’ drive away in Fort William.
We believe this could be a model which could be carried out throughout remote rural Scotland
The telehealth solution is expected to go live in the next few weeks and will work in a similar way to Skype. It follows on from a trial ‘Emergency First Responders’ scheme, which involves training local people with a healthcare background to respond first to appropriate urgent or emergency calls until an air or road ambulance can arrive at the scene. Currently five volunteers have signed up.
Once the first responders have seen the patient, they will go to a private suite at nearby Kilchoan College, where they will be reviewed, via the internet, by medical experts based at emergency care centres in Aberdeen and other major hospitals, who will advise on the next course of action.
Commenting on the scheme, Scottish Health Secretary, Alex Neil, said: “I am committed to ensuring that all communities in Scotland receive safe and sustainable health care services.
“This pilot scheme for remote healthcare, which is being led by NHS Highland, will play a vital role in helping to meet the needs of rural communities.
“I would expect this to be suitable for testing in urban as well as remote areas in Scotland.”
Rosie Curtis, chairwoman of the West Ardnamurchan Community Council, added: “The First Responder scheme has been working well. It is absolutely fantastic. We would be absolutely lost if we did not have it. We believe this could be a model which could be carried out throughout remote rural Scotland.”