Digital to support care at home and mental health in Scottish Government’s winter overview

The Scottish Government has published a new strategy entitled ‘Heath and social care: winter resilience overview 2022 to 2023’.

It sets out the actions planned to support the health and care sector through the winter period, with focus on maintaining a whole system approach. Eight priorities have been set out, underpinned by £600 million of investment.

These priorities include promoting care at home where clinically appropriate; focusing on expanding the workforce through winter; supporting the delivery of services that are safe through autumn and winter, including a vaccination programme; maximising capacity to meet demand and maintaining integrated services; protecting planned care to reduce waiting times; prioritising care for the vulnerable; ensuring unpaid carers are supported; and working in partnership across the sector and with external partners where necessary to deliver this plan.

Digital is noted to play a specific role in the first priority, around promoting care at home. To ensure that people can access the right service for them, “we are also maximising the use of digital tools such as NHS Near Me and Connect Me to improve our systems and widen access,” the strategy states. Near Me is widely used across NHS Scotland for heath and care appointments, with the strategy estimating that around 20,000 consultations are held every week; increasing access to this will allow this number to rise. Group therapy functions have also been launched in Near Me.

Connect Me supports remote monitoring of conditions at home and it is hoped that increasing this will assist with care at home and providing continuity of care.

“We are investing in digital mental health service capacity,” the strategy continues. Noting that digital therapies offer people the chance to access support wherever they need it, it continues: “We have 22 computerised cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) treatments available, some accessible without a referral from a medical professional. We have also increased access to internet enabled CBT so that people can speak to a mental health professional online.”

In addition, the Digital Mental Health Innovation Cluster has been launched which consists of representatives from across organisations and institutions and aims to “ignite powerful collaborations of shared interest, aligning expertise and skills… to drive forward activity centred on a common purpose.” Alongside this, the government’s wellbeing website Mind to Mind offers video support for managing mental health conditions along with signposting to support services.

Digital also plays a role in the fifth priority, to protect planned care and reduce long waits. “Through the Centre for Sustainable Delivery, we are developing ‘Once for Scotland pathways to deliver additional capacity across Scotland, harnessing digital opportunities and new options to access and deliver patient care.”

To read the strategy in full, please click here.