Today Health Minister, Malcolm Chisholm, visited a unique new service which allows gynaecological cancer patients, from as far apart as Stornoway and Stranraer, to benefit from the collective expertise of the West of Scotland's top cancer specialists – without either the patient or consultants having to travel.
Harnessing the very latest in terms of digital teleconferencing technology, gynaecologists based at different locations refer patient cases to be reviewed as part of a ‘virtual' meeting with regional gynaecological oncology specialists. The expert team then discuss and view patient information and images in real time - deciding on the best way to treat patients with a range of gynaecological cancers.
Dr Jo Davis, Lead Clinician for Gynaecological Oncology in North Glasgow, explained how it works, he said: "Every week, a multidisciplinary team of gynaecologists, oncologists, pathologists, radiologists and nurses from throughout the West of Scotland, meet ‘virtually' through video-conferencing.We discuss patients who have been referred to us for specialist advice and care and review around 30 cases each week with a view to deciding the best form of treatment.
"The value of this system is that it allows each patient's case history to be reviewed by the complete team of experts - as this increases the degree of knowledge, skill and experience that can be brought to bear on what are often difficult and complex clinical circumstances."
The £800,000 system, funded by the Scottish Telemedicine Action Forum - a Scottish Executive-led initiative - went ‘live' two months ago, following an 18-month pilot project.
The project, which also provides an excellent learning forum for junior staff,brings together colleagues from Hairmyres Hospital in Lanarkshire, the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley, Inverclyde Royal Hospital, Falkirk Royal Infirmary, Crosshouse Hospital in Kilmarnock and the Western Isles – all of which are part of the West of Scotland Gynaecological Oncology Managed Clinical Network.
The system is not just about video-conferencing – it's supported by the most advanced form of shared electronic image and information transfer capabilities and electronic patient record/data software.It's the first in Scotland to allow electronic download of images of patient tumours.These can then be viewed simultaneously at all the conference locations so they can be discussed and reviewed.
Mr Chisholm said: "This project is an excellent example of clinicians working together across hospital sites and using new technology to improve patient care.
"By sharing images and information and expertise they are able to drive up standards of care in every hospital that is involved.Everyone involved should be congratulated for this excellent initiative."
Dr Douglas Steven, Consultant Gynaecologist at Stirling Royal Infirmary, is a regular participant in the group and links up through specially installed equipment in Stirling Royal Infirmary. He said: "The telemedicine link has provided considerable benefits for Forth Valley women suffering from gynaecological cancer. There is much quicker access to opinions for all patients from specialised consultants, and direct care when necessary. Those patients who can have care locally are spared the inconvenience of travel to Glasgow, while retaining the benefits of specialised management of their condition."
Notes to Editor:
Latest NHS Scotland statistics show that every year 630 woman in the West of Scotland are diagnosed with gynaecological cancers.
Managed Clinical Networks are groups of health professionals and organisations, from primary, secondary (acute) and regional care, working together to provide the equitable delivery of effective clinical services to the people of Scotland.
Images available on request.
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