In 2016, the Scottish Government procured a licence for all 14 territorial health boards to use a video consulting platform called Attend Anywhere. Initially, uptake was low and mostly restricted to NHS Highland and NHS Grampian.
Developed and tested in 2017, NHS Highland used the Attend Anywhere platform for pharmacy reviews in the far North. Recruitment of pharmacists was an issue and asking pharmacists to travel long distances was not a good use of this scarce resource. It was in a bid to address this challenge that ‘Pharmacy Anywhere’ was born.
It used telehealth (phone and video) to enable access to medication reviews without the patient or the pharmacist having to travel.
Pharmacy Anywhere evaluated positively and highlighted the potential to use video across the NHS Highland area. Notably, however, the evaluation also identified that an important barrier to using video was poor connectivity – something that remains problematic in parts of Scotland today.
One of the main reasons the Hub and Spoke model was established was to overcome the barrier of connectivity.
The Next Chapter
With funding and support from the Scottish Government’s Technology Enabled Care team, the next chapter began in 2017.
NHS Highland initially tested the Attend Anywhere platform in Caithness – some 100 miles from Inverness – where patients often had to travel.
Depending on the speciality options for outpatient appointment might include:
- Video at NHS Highland local facility (with or without support) – Hub and Spoke
- Face to Face (clinician travels)
- Face to Face (patient travels)
One of the main reasons the Hub and Spoke model was established was to overcome the barrier of connectivity. Caithness General Hospital was established as a local Spoke and was set up with purpose-designed rooms and equipment. This was intended to optimise the consultation (sound and visual quality) for the clinician based in the Hub (Raigmore Hospital).
The setup meant there were no connectivity issues, and the patient did not have to worry about the technology. Additional staff were used if some tests were required or to support with connecting the call.
It was through the work in Caithness in collaboration with patients, public, professionals and politicians, that NHS Highland branded the service NHS Near Me including their own Twitter channel.
NHS Near Me
Co-production of NHS Near Me continued across wider parts of the Highland supported by The 2018 Q Exchange Funding. The aim was to provide appointments for patients in their own home and was specifically tested on the Island of Skye.
NHS Highland and the Highland Council were unique in Scotland as they integrated health and social care back in 2012. They established what is known as the lead agency model, with NHS Highland responsible for delivering adult social care: including care at home, day services, care home and social work services. In recognition of this the NHS element was dropped and thereafter referred to as ‘Near Me’ – the national branding as used today.
In 2020, the Scottish Government procured a licence to extend the use of Near Me and is now being rolled out across housing, social care, public and third sector. Some of the branding has been tweaked (through colours) to allow other sectors to develop a unique identity if they wish but the core logo is common to all.
The development of the Near Me brand was done locally, at little cost and did not use marketing experts. Importantly it was the public that chose the name. While it has taken some time to get Near Me branding to be used consistently it was judged that it was better to get boards to adopt at opportune moments. The outstanding legacy is the Near Me twitter account which continues to be used.
Where are we now?
The early ethos of co-design and engagement has been a constant feature. In 2020/21 we carried out public engagement (with over 5,000 responses); co-production of Equality Impact Assessment and an Independent evaluation. They all point to a vision where Near Me offers choice to have an appointment wherever it is appropriate, convenient, practical, and safe.
Near Me is far from being in competition with telephone or face to face but it is a new addition to the appointment family. Since the pandemic it has had to grow up fast. It is now delivering over 80,000 appointments per month and will shortly pass the one million mark.
Visit the Near Me website to find out more.