Scilly Isles patients meet consultants via video conferencing

A health centre in the Scilly Isles will use video conferencing solutions to ensure residents can keep hospital appointments on mainland Cornwall after a vital helicopter service ceases.

Patients of St Mary’s Health Centre who need to attend appointments at The Royal Cornwall Hospital in Treliske have until now been transported to the mainland via a helicopter service provided by British International Helicopters. However, reports, the BIH is withdrawing the flights due to rising costs and a dispute with Tesco over land where the heliport is situated.

Local people have been understandably worried, particularly those with medical complaints. However the health centre has agreed a partnership with two consultants in Cornwall to trial video conferencing technology. The project will allow patients on the Scilly Isles to speak to the consultants directly without having to leave the island.

If successful, the scheme could be rolled out further and possibly inspire other medical centres to emulate the service, by hiring video conferencing facilities of their own.

Councillor Richard McCarthy, chairman of community services, told that an innovative solution was required for the continued access to healthcare after the helicopter service closes and is a proponent of technology.

“New technology has to be a sensible way forward for providing health service on the islands. It won’t be there for everyone but it will give more options and greater flexibility so that people don’t have to give up a day’s work or school to attend appointments,” he said.

The project has been spear-headed by Dr John Garman of St Mary’s who says that the pilot scheme will be more than paid for with the savings made on a few helicopter flights.