niyazz - Fotolia

NHS Scotland extends video consultation scheme

The Scottish Near Me video consultation platform can now be used in community settings such as libraries and health and care centres for GP appointments, hospital appointments, care homes, dietetics and mental health support

The Scottish government is aiming to significantly increase the use of video consultations in health and care settings.

The Near Me platform has been used by NHS Scotland for several years, but its use shot up during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, and it is now being used for around 40,000 consultations a month.

The government wants to do more to ensure people are able to use the platform and extend the type of services available through it.

Patients will now be able to use the platform in community settings, including libraries and health and care facilities, as well as at home.

The government has funded 55 hubs across Scotland, providing private areas for video consultations for those who either struggle with finding a confidential space to hold the consultation or who don’t have a good internet connection at home or access to a suitable device.

Health secretary Humza Yousaf said the platform could help ease the pressure on the NHS and make life easier for patients.

“Face-to-face appointments will always be there for people who need them, but Near Me has many benefits to patients, including saving time and money. It is valuable in giving them options on accessing healthcare in a way that is easy and comfortable for them. It allows multiple family members to join consultations and saves patients having to take time off work or organise childcare,” said Yousaf.

“The platform has also reduced the need for travel, saving an estimated 57 million miles of travel since January 2020. That is so important at this time when we are looking at fuel costs and the impact on the environment.”

As part of the Scottish government’s NHS Scotland recovery plan, set out in August 2021, which aims to renew the country’s health service and address backlogs following the Covid-19 pandemic, it will pump £3.4m a year into the platform, aiming to increase usage.

During the pandemic, the platform was used particularly within mental health, with more than 6,300 video therapy consultations conducted through the app every week.

The platform is now used for GP appointments, hospital outpatient appointments, care homes, dietetics and mental health support. The Scottish government believes every patient should be offered the option of a Near Me appointment, if appropriate.

Andrina Robb, Near Me support manager for NHS Highland, said the system was safe, secure and straightforward to use for patients.

“There is no app to download or registration required. Your details remain private, just like any other appointment,” she said. “All you need is a device for making video calls, like a smartphone, tablet, or laptop, and an internet connection. If you don’t have these things, Near Me rooms are now available in some GP surgeries and other locations such as libraries. You can even invite along a friend or family member for support, and they can join the call even if they live far away.”

Read more about the NHS in Scotland and technology


Read more on Healthcare and NHS IT

Data Center
Data Management