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Minister visits telemedicine project

Minister for Public Health Shona Robison yesterday visited Crieff Community Hospital to see a project which is using telemedicine to improve care for patients with lung disease.

The Pulmonary Rehabilitation Telehealth Project uses teleconferencing equipment to deliver patient assessment, exercise training, education and psychosocial support to people in Crieff with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), saving them a journey to Perth Royal Infirmary. It is an example of the kind of projects health boards are taking forward under the NHS Quality Strategy.

Patients are given a consultation with a physiotherapist and a physiotherapy assistant based at Perth Royal Infirmary. The project is also being trialled in Blairgowrie and Pitlochry.

An evaluation of the pilot project has shown that access for patients with COPD in rural areas has improved, patient experience has improved, efficiency savings have been made and better use is being made of the skill mix of NHS staff.

The Quality Strategy is aiming to put patients at the heart of everything the NHS does and health boards are being asked to ensure that their services contribute to the delivery of the Quality Strategy ambitions; safe, effective and person-centred.

Ms Robison said: "The project I have seen in Crieff here today is a shining example of what is being achieved across Scotland under the Quality Strategy. The initiative is one of the ways we are achieving safe, effective and person-centred care for the people of Tayside.

"It is ensuring that patients can get support to help them manage their own condition closer to home and more quickly, and harnesses technology to do this.

"Providing telecare to rural and remote communities allows people to access specialist care without the disadvantages and inconvenience of travelling.

"I know that patients welcome this development and I am sure other health boards in Scotland with remote and rural populations will be looking to introduce similar schemes."

Following her visit to Crieff Community Hospital, Ms Robison will give a speech at the Delivering Quality and Efficiency in Healthcare conference at Crieff Hydro.

Jane Dernie, Perth & Kinross Community Health Partnership AHP Lead, said: "Pulmonary Rehabilitation is a programme of exercise and education that equips patients with respiratory disease to manage their condition. Chronic obstructive airways disease can be a debilitating condition for patients and their carers that impacts on day to day living.

"Perth & Kinross is a large geographic area so many patients living with respiratory disease could not access the pulmonary rehab service which was based at Perth.

"The service tested the delivery of the programme using tele-conferencing units initially to Pitlochry and this has spread to both Crieff and Blairgowrie community hospitals when patient numbers have allowed. Benefits for patients being able to access in their local community are great and local staff are able to develop the skills associated with delivering the classes."

COPD causes the airways to become narrowed, leading to a limitation of the flow of air to and from the lungs causing shortness of breath.

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