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Teleneurology development for Skye patients

Issued: 9 Nov 2010

The introduction of a new telehealth service in Skye now means that more neurology patients can be seen locally with less having to travel to Inverness for appointments.

Video conferencing is already widely used by NHS Highland as a way of connecting health care staff who work in different places.

The new teleneurology service is a joint project between NHS 24’s Scottish Centre for Telehealth and NHS Highland and follows the successful establishment of telehealth initiatives between the two organisations.

Teleneurology has been working well between Caithness General Hospital in Wick and Raigmore for the past two years and, with the successful introduction of teledialysis between the renal units in Inverness and Wick, as well as video conferencing being used for some patient consultations between Inverness and the Western Isles, the introduction of this system on Skye is being welcomed.

It will enable patients to receive the care they require as close to their own homes as possible, thus saving the time and inconvenience of travelling, and will mean the consultants can see more patients in the available time.

NHS Highland Clinical Services Development Manager Kate Earnshaw said: “We are delighted we are able to offer this service to the population of Skye and Lochalsh. By doing so, we can ensure that services remain as local as possible, reduce the amount of travel for our patients and shorter waiting times for appointments.

“Telehealth opens up lots of opportunities for remote and rural health care and, although this is happening initially in Portree, we hope to soon extend this service to Broadford.”

The new clinics in Skye will be held two to four times a year for patients with a variety of conditions. Patients who are new to the service and those with certain conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, will still require face to face consultation but for many patients their clinic appointment can take place via video conferencing.

Patients will be able to see their Consultant by way of a television screen and vice versa. A nurse or nursing auxiliary will support the patients with the videolink during the teleneurology appointment.

NHS Highland Consultant Neurologist Dr Bethany Jones said: “Communicating with patients is not affected by the fact that it takes place via a screen. In fact some patients have remarked that they prefer it this way as it is less daunting!

“I anticipate being able to develop these clinics further and, while they will not be able to replace neurology clinics, I hope that patients will feel the full benefit of being seen closer to home and having to travel less.”

Kirsten MacCallum was one of the first patients seen at the clinic. She said: “My appointment went well and it was easy to build up a rapport with the Consultant in Inverness.

“Communication was clear and easy to understand and I felt able to ask all the questions I needed to about my condition and treatment.

“By using telehealth I have been saved the stress and hassle of a five hour round trip to Inverness in the winter. I did not have to take time off work and there was no need to arrange childcare. I would gladly have further appointments this way and would advise other people to try it.”

Cathy Dorrian, Service Development Manager for the Scottish Centre for Telehealth, added: “The teleneurology services we have set up across Scotland in the last five years have been very successful and there are high levels of satisfaction with the service amongst our patients.

“We have worked very closely with NHS Quality Improvement Scotland on establishing clinical standards for teleneurology in Scotland. Using telemedicine in this way can improve patient access to specialist neurological services and we hope to continue to roll out similar services to other remote and rural areas of Scotland in the future.”

© 2010 Highland Public Services Partnership.
Project part-financed by the European Union (European Regional Development Fund) within the INTERREG IIIB Northern Periphery Programme