The Scottish Centre for Telehealth will become part of NHS24, the special health board that runs Scotland’s national health helpline and website, from 1 April 2010.
The move follows an in-depth review of the SCT by Scotland’s e-health Directorate. This said the centre had considerable support and that it had achieved significant success. However, it also said it needed to make substantial improvements.
The review said: “Poor communication, confusion over the SCT’s role and purpose and the absence of a clear strategic direction are damaging its reputation, success, influence and staff morale.”
The review felt the telecare landscape should be simplified, with the SCT joining one of the special health boards. It argued “the best fit” would be NHS24.
"They share a strong clinical focus, both rely on IT infrastructure, and NHS24 is active in many complementary areas of health care service delivery," it said.
The report also said that the SCT needed to become more strategic, first focusing on a few clinical areas, and then moving them from pilot to universal use.
Health secretary Nicola Sturgeon, said: “The Scottish Centre for Telehealth has already been helping individual NHS boards devise ways of using technology to reach out to patients in our more isolated areas and those with mobility issues.
“But by integrating it within NHS 24, we can ensure that use of telehealth is spread right across Scotland and benefits patients in all our communities.”
James Ferguson, clinical lead at the SCT said: “The SCT has had many successes over its short lifetime, which have emphasised the need for telehealth to be adopted generally thought the NHS in Scotland.
“This review gives us a blueprint for modernising, and improving, delivery of care to the people of Scotland through the use of telecommunications technology.”
The review has also led to a planned increase in investment in e-health by the Scottish Government of almost 40% as of next year. The draft budget for 2010-11 has been increased from £97.2m to £134.7m.
Sturgeon added: “The Scottish government has increased investment in e-health because it can play a key part in our goals to bring healthcare closer to patients and create a more efficient NHS.”