NHS Highland has started offering GP appointments by video.
The new GP Near Me service is being tested with patients of Riverview Practice in the town of Wick, Caithness, in the north of Scotland.
As of 29 October, a GP and nurse at the practice will be offering video appointments for cases in which hands-on care is not required.
Patients can dial-in to appointments using an internet-connected device with a camera – such as a laptop or computer with a webcam, or a smartphone or tablet.
Once an appointment is confirmed, patients are provided with a web link from which then can launch the video call.
NHS Near Me is intended to offer more convenience to patients who might find it difficult to attend a face-to-face appointment with their GP.
NHS Highland heard feedback from patients suggesting that video consultations would be useful for those caring for relatives or unable to leave the house due to bad weather.
Video appointments also negate the need for people to take time off work to see a clinician, NHS Highland added.
Clare Morrison, lead of NHS Near Me at NHS Highland, said: “Many patients have told us that being able to attend an appointment from home or their workplace would be much more convenient for them.
“One patient told us that she always gets breathless on the walk into the consulting room, so being able to attend an appointment by video from home meant she was able to focus on the whole consultation, rather than miss the first few minutes while she caught her breath.”
NHS Near Me was developed in Caithness for hospital outpatient appointments.
A handful of patients in Caithness and Sutherland have been able access video consultations with their GP practice’s pharmacist, although the launch of the platform in Wick marks the first time the technology has been offered by a GP in the region.
Morrison added: “It isn’t going to be for everyone, but this is about giving patients another option to make care more accessible.”
NHS Highland plans to launch a user survey in the coming days to seek views on whether the practice should move into a new ‘Care Hub’, located at either Wick Town and County Hospital or Pulteney House.
Joanna Groves, Riverview Practice business manager, said: “We are very keen for patients to try out GP Near Me during this test week so we can work out the best way to offer this service to patients.”