Orkney’s MSP, Liam McArthur, has expressed concern at findings of an independent evaluation of the Near Me video consulting service which revealed that poor connectivity in the islands affected patient uptake of the service.
The Near Me service has been introduced in health boards across Scotland to allow patients to access virtual appointments with health and care staff. The programme’s roll-out was accelerated during the pandemic to help reduce the need for face-to-face appointments for safety reasons.
However, whilst the independent report identified that staff were positive about the technology and quality of connection at Balfour hospital, it went on to warn that “insufficient connectivity was one of the main barriers to patient uptake of Near Me, and also limited opportunities for some staff to run their video appointments from home”.
Commenting on the findings, Mr McArthur said:
“The last year has really exposed the damaging impact that inadequate access to reliable and fast broadband has for those living and working in our islands. This report shows the impact poor broadband coverage has in the delivery of health and care services.
“The response of patients and staff who have been access Near Me technology is very positive. It clearly has made a real difference, particularly given the restrictions in place over the past year. However, the report also demonstrates that some of those in Orkney who might benefit most from this service have been unable to access it at all due to poor connectivity.
“This shows the harsh reality of SNP Ministers failing to deliver on their promises of superfast broadband to every household in Scotland by 2021. Indeed, with signs that the government’s R100 programme won’t reach every part of Orkney, the risk if that for many islanders Near Me may remain far off for some time to come.”