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Video conferencing helps health board to save money

NHS SHETLAND saved around £580,000 last year by patients not having to travel to the mainland for appointments thanks to video conferencing and more pre-assessments being held locally.

NHS Shetland patient travel manager Yvonne Graham told the Sumburgh Airport consultative committee on Thursday that 1,400 journeys were saved over the course of 2017.

Around 1,200 of those were thanks to video conferencing, which was double the amount compared to 2016.

Graham said nearly 7,000 patients and escorts travelled south for appointments in the last financial year.

It comes at a time when the health board needs to cut its costs by several million pounds over the next few years.

Graham added that NHS Shetland had helped 26 patients through a new hotline which allows patients with appointments in Aberdeen to phone up staff in Lerwick to double-check if their needs can be catered for locally.

At the Sumburgh Airport consultative committee meeting on Thursday, Shetland south councillor and vice-chairman of the health and social care partnership integration joint board Allison Duncan questioned how many patients choose to travel by boat.

“It tends to be pretty consistent no matter what we do,” Graham said, adding that around 2,000 people travel by the ferry a year.

Last year NHS Shetland struck a new deal with airline Loganair for patient travel after deciding against an unpopular move to have people take the boat in the first instance.

The health board said the new Loganair deal would save around £300,000 a year.