A Highlands and Islands MSP has claimed that the full potential of NHS Highland’s ‘Near Me’ service could be seriously impacted without access to superfast broadband.
This comes after an update on the Sir Lewis Ritchie report on health care on Skye, which stated: “the main limitation for use for NHS Near Me at home is availability of broadband in the remote and rural parts of the area.”
R100, or the Reaching 100% programme, is the SNP Government’s flagship to roll out super-fast broadband to 100% of Scotland’s inhabitants by 2021.
In a written answer to the Scottish Parliament on 7 June 2019, the SNP Government admitted there have been unexpected delays and they won’t even sign a contract to deliver this flagship policy until the end of 2019.
Edward Mountain MSP raised the issue at Holyrood during Topical Questions today.
The Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands said that the Highlands “has been well-served by the investment this government is making” and highlighted a 58.3% increase in superfast broadband coverage in the region.
The Minister continued: “I do agree with him that access to broadband is extremely important for new innovation areas such as health innovation. And clearly through CivTech, and other measures, we are actually pioneering new approaches to uses of digital technology in the NHS Highland area.”
Following their exchange, Edward Mountain made the following comment: “NHS Near Me offers a vital way for Highlanders, living in the remotest parts of the region, to access health care.
"It is a great innovation but the full potential of the service is being held back by the Scottish Government’s mishandling of their R100 programme.
"A longer wait for superfast broadband is simply unacceptable. The Highlands needs to be fully connected so that our rural health service can make the technological advances it needs.”