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Mums-to-be in Oban and on the islands can now see consultants without having to travel miles.
NHS Highland is offering pregnant women living in remote areas of Argyll the chance to use its Attend Anywhere service.
The video link maternity service came about after the NHS listened to women saying that travelling for consultant appointments can be a real challenge.
It will save families time, money and bring their care closer to home. The first appointment was on December 12 last year and to date 39 women have used the service.
Health bosses hope the Attend Anywhere scheme will eventually mean women can chat to their consultant from their own home or anywhere else as long as they have a computer, smartphone, iPad or iPhone with the free Attend Anywhere App downloaded, an internet connection and a webcam.
For the time being Lorn and Islands Hospital in Oban and the hospital on Islay have special Attend Anywhere clinics where women can go there to use the video-link but have their midwife with them and have results from check-ups and some scans fed through to the consultant as part of the appointment.
Oban hospital has its Attend Anywhere clinics on a Wednesday.
To use the video call service, which is free apart from the internet use cost, an appointment has to be made first with the midwife on 01631 788911. Women are regularly monitored and re-assessed to make sure they are suitable for that kind of care to continue.
If women prefer to travel to see their consultant in person, that is an option. For some appointments it might still be necessary to travel anyway, especially if specialist input is needed.
Liz Blair, consultant obstetrician at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley said it is an incredibly ‘simple and straight straight forward’ process, where consultants log on and their patients are waiting for them in a virtual waiting room.
She said: ‘Our population are all young women and they are used to Skype and things like that so it’s no different to that. Feedback has been positive so far.’
Mum Oonagh Fielden, who was pregnant with her third child when she featured in an NHS video promoting the service, said in her second pregnancy when she lived in Oban she had to make a round trip of around 200 miles for a scan or consultancy appointment that would only last about ten minutes.
This time, the Attend Anywhere clinic was making a huge difference. ‘I didn’t have any reservations,’ she said. ‘I felt comfortable knowing what the set up was about. It was discussed with me fully beforehand. Compared to last time when I didn’t know who I was going to see or how long I would be and was tired after making the journey, this has been a huge benefit.’