The Scottish Centre for Telehealth and Telecare has started delivering health services via video link to police custody suites and prisons.

Service development manager Cathy Dorrian told eHealth Insider that prisoners and people held in police cells can have difficulty accessing appropriate and timely healthcare.

A number of remote police custody suites in the Scottish Highlands have no nurses on call to deal with people who are often suffering from mental issues or addiction problems.

The centre has set up video conferencing between health staff at major custody suites and some of these remote holding cells.

Video links have also gone live over recent months at HMP Edinburgh and HMP Addiewell, giving patients access to specialist psychiatric clinicians in acute centres.

Previously, if a prisoner needed to be assessed by a specialist they had to be escorted in a van with two security guards, a costly and time-consuming process, said Dorrian.

NHS 24 is the national provider of telemedicine via the Scottish Centre for Telehealth and Telecare and supports delivery of all patient facing web services such as smartphone apps, SMS texting and a digital television channel.

The organsiation’s goal is to make services available on at least two or three different channels so patients have choice over which to use.

NHS 24 medical director Professor George Crooks said Scotland is possibly the only region in Europe with a national telehealth and telecare strategy, which is one of the supporting strands of the over-arching e-health strategy.

The strategy was due for renewal last year, but the Scottish Government instead asked for a delivery plan. Therefore, the team produced a three-year plan for delivery.

“What effectively we are saying is that we recognise that face-to-face care is what people really value in both health and social care, but it’s the most expensive way of delivering the service so we have to make sure that it’s available to those who need it when they need it,” said Professor Crooks.

“We do that by using all the digital channels of delivery to deliver services where it’s safe effective and appropriate to do so.”

Read more about the work that NHS 24 and the Scottish Centre for Telehealth and Telecare are doing in this week’s Insight.