The NHS offers a wide range of services depending on your needs. Some of these services you can access by going to your GP practice. For example, GP consultations, routine health checks and advice from a nurse or even a Community Links Practitioner in some cases. Other services you would need to travel to a hospital or a health clinic. For example, a podiatry service, eye care or more specialised treatments.
There are some services which you can access online or through an app on your phone. These are called digital services, eHealth services or digital health and care services. Scotland has a Digital Health and Care Strategy, refreshed in 2021. It aims to “improve the care and wellbeing of people in Scotland by making best use of digital technologies in the design and delivery of services". It also aims to focus on providing the right care, in the right place at the right time.
The aim of digital NHS services is to make some processes and interactions easier, or to use information better. This is to ensure that your care is the best you can receive. For example, you might be able to book an appointment online instead of having to call or visit your GP practice. You might also be able to order a repeat prescription through the web. You might even be able to have a video consultation from the comfort of your home.
The examples above are new ways of doing routine tasks, using the internet and digital technology.
There are also new technologies which can enable you to do things which would not be possible otherwise. For example, you might be able to track certain aspects of your health or symptoms. You can then automatically share this data with health professionals. You might also be able to access certain services which are online only.
In summary, digital technology can allow you to do the things you’re used to, in a better way. But it can also help you do new things, which weren’t possible before. Digital technology does not mean to replace any face-to-face services completely. We often hear that digital services work best alongside face-to-face services. But digital technology can do some of the hard work, so you can focus on what matters to you.
How can I find out what services are available to me?
NHS Digital services vary by health board and GP practice. Not all services described here are available throughout Scotland. Some might also have additional eligibility criteria. It is best to speak to a healthcare professional if you are unsure of what support you might be able to access.
If you think you would benefit from a tool which currently isn’t offered in your area, it’s always worth asking for it. In a recent study with health care professionals, 9 out of 10 said they would be more willing to provide a service where patients have requested it.
Give feedback on NHS services
Care Opinion allows you to share a specific experience of health care or social care. You can say what happened, what was good, and what could have been better. The story is then published (if possible) and shared with staff in the services who need to see it. Often, staff will reply and you will be emailed their response.
So you can use Care Opinion to pass praise on a service you experienced. You can also suggest changes or even just to review other people’s experiences. This can allow you to make an informed choice on the service you decide to visit.