VIDEO appointments with consultants in Lerwick are set to become a permanent fixture at Unst Health Centre after the building was reconfigured to create a dedicated space for virtual clinic sessions.
The Attend Anywhere scheme has been trialled at the northerly health centre this year in a bid to cut down on the transport required for people attending pre-operation assessments.
The trial has been a success and work on embedding video conference facilities at the health centre on a permanent basis is all but completed.
This should enable patients in Unst to undertake virtual clinics in privacy in a dedicated space.
The scheme, which is also established in Yell and Whalsay, means people do not have to travel to hospital in Lerwick for pre-operation assessments.
For people in Unst, this means hours of travelling on two ferries and down the Shetland mainland is shaved off their day.
NHS Shetland primary care manager Lisa Watt stressed that the scheme is not mandatory, and it is only available for those whose condition is suitable.
It is proving popular, however, with a number of people using Attend Anywhere during the trial period in Unst.
“If you think about how long people in Shetland spend travelling to get to appointments, both within Shetland and off island, if there’s anything we can do that cuts down on those travel times and the inconvenience of being away from home, then it’s absolutely got to be the thing to do,” Watt said.
Explaining more about how the system will work in the UK’s most northerly health centre, the primary care manager said: “We have to have a space within the health centre where people can have a private one to one conversation with the clinician in the hospital.
“What we’ve done in Unst is that we’ve reconfigured space there so we’ve got that dedicated small area where people can sit in front of the computer and have those conversations.”
Watt said that the patient will come into the health centre and have their height, weight and blood pressure taken by a nurse before having a one to one consultation by video, connecting to the Gilbert Bain Hospital.
The primary care manager said that the health centres in the North Isles have good enough broadband to cater for the demands of video conferencing.
Watt added that the data required for a virtual call is “less than watching a YouTube video”.
Shetland Islands Council is also spearheading a project to bring fibre broadband to public buildings in Yell and Unst – including health centres – which will bolster connectivity in the isles in the near future.
There are also hopes that later down the line patients may be able to take part in virtual clinics at home, instead of going to their health centre, while there is also a focus on providing virtual sessions with consultants from Aberdeen.