NHS Dumfries & Galloway

Web-based appointment system rolled out to address coronavirus

A SYSTEM allowing people to attend appointments without leaving their home is being scaled up in response to the coronavirus COVID-19.

NHS Near Me offers people the opportunity to use a laptop, tablet and even a mobile phone to speak directly to a clinician – cutting down on unnecessary travel, expense and inconvenience.

And recognising its value in amid the developing likelihood of a national spread of coronavirus, Medical Director Dr Kenneth Donaldson said: “NHS Near Me is a fantastic system, and it makes perfect sense to accelerate its roll-out in response to COVID-19.

“NHS Near Me is a secure and reliable system which uses web-based technology to provide an easy, convenient and safe alternative to in-patient appointments.

“At a scheduled time, someone can log in from a location of their choosing and speak face-to-face with a clinician.

“We’ve been using NHS Near Me in specific areas for a little while now, and it has proven extremely robust and useful – helping to remove the need for unnecessary travel, assisting people to manage long-term conditions and being used to address loneliness and social isolation.

“NHS Near Me is not appropriate for all appointments or every person, but instead joins a mixture of approaches including in-person appointments and telephone appointments. And at a time when we’re working to prevent the spread of coronavirus, we believe it will serve a very important role.”

The new system has been delivered through Dumfries and Galloway Health and Social Care Partnership’s Sustainability and Modernisation Programme, ‘SAM’.

To use the system, a patient simply clicks on a link which they will have been provided – accessing a virtual waiting room.

At the scheduled time, they will then find themselves face-to-face with their clinician.

And as part of the long-term rollout of NHS Near Me, hubs are being established in local communities so that people who may not have access to a device or may require support can still take advantage of the service.

People who have already used the service include David Hirst of Wigtownshire, who said: “I’m a renal patient who has had a transplant, and I think NHS Near Me is really brilliant.

“I live 54 miles away from Stranraer as a round trip, so to come in and see a consultant takes me most of the day. The consultant is coming from Dumfries, so that’s two hours there and two hours back – that’s four hours. They see about three patients an hour, so that’s 12 appointments they’re losing every day.

“I can sit in my own lounge, have a 15 minute or 20 minute appointment with my consultant, and get everything done that I need to do without the expense of it or time.

“The system itself is as easy as using Skype, it’s confidential, and I can’t see any drawbacks to it at all.”

Kim Crosbie who lives in a village new Newton Stewart has been using NHS Near Me in relation to treatment for cancer.

Admitting that ‘travelling is a big thing for me’, Kim said: “When I was first asked did I want to have this video conference link it was a bit strange – ‘Will it work, won’t it work?’ But because I was used to doing Skype and Facetime with family from all over the country, I just looked at it as being the same. 

“It was really nice, and probably more unclinical because it seemed a more friendly, comfortable environment to be talking to someone that way.”

For more information about NHS Near Me, visit the website www.attendanywhere.org.uk