Video hospital and GP appointments are being made available in libraries and community centres as part of scheme to reduce pressure on the NHS.
The Near Me programme, which sees up to 40,000 consultations a month, is being extended so patients can visit 55 “hubs” across Scotland.
Patient satisfaction with family doctor services in Scotland fell sharply during the Covid pandemic, a fall blamed on restrictions reducing access to practices, research published in the British Medical Journal has found.
In August last year, the Scottish Government pledged that face-to-face consultations with GPs would be restored “as quickly and safely as possible” as part of its £1bn NHS Recovery Plan.
But Scotland’s largest healthboard, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, has said the virtual appointments are very popular with patients with 98% saying they would use the service again.
More than four out of five (83%) highlighted not having to travel as the biggest benefit, with just under two-thirds (61%) said it was more convenient and 58% thought they were more efficient use of their time.
“All you need is a device for making video calls, like a smartphone, tablet, or laptop, and an internet connection,” said Andrina Robb, Near Me support manager for NHS Highland, who assured patients the system is safe and secure.
“If you don’t have these things, Near Me rooms are now available in some GP surgeries and other locations such as libraries.”
Patients can also invite a friend or family member for support and they can join the call even if they live far away.
“Face to face appointments will always be there for people who need them, but Near Me has many benefits to patients, including saving time and money,” said health secretary Humza Yousaf.
“It is valuable in giving them options on accessing healthcare in a way that is easy and comfortable for them.
“It allows multiple family members to join consultations and saves patients having to take time off work or organise childcare.
“The platform has also reduced the need for travel, saving an estimated 57 million miles of travel since January 2020. That is so important at this time when we are looking at fuel costs and the impact on the environment.”