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NHS Near Me report sparks connectivity concerns

Liam McArthur MSP

Poor connectivity is hampering the uptake of digital health consultation services in the isles, an independent evaluation has found.

The NHS Near Me service has been introduced in health authorities 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.

While an independent report has revealed that staff were positive about the technology and quality of connection at The Balfour, it has also warned that “insufficient connectivity” was one of the main barriers to patient uptake of Near Me. This included concerns that poor connection limited opportunities for some staff to run their video appointments from home.

Major concerns over internet coverage have plagued Orkney for many year, with many parts of the county still relying on poor connections and slow speeds despite efforts to rollout “superfast” broadband across Scotland.

Orkney MSP Liam McArthur has expressed concern at these findings, which he believes have laid bare the severe impact that poor internet connectivity is continuing to have on our community.

“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,” Mr McArthur said.

“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.”