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Grant Reilly


18th March 2024


Help shape the future of digital health and social care in Moray

Participate in pioneering digital tech-driven pilot to address ‘unprecedented pressure’ on health and social care delivery across Moray and beyond.

  • ‘Once-in-a-lifetime’ project has the potential to revolutionise the way health and social care is delivered
  • Services have reached an ‘inevitable’ tipping point driven by longer life expectancy, higher demand on services, and fewer professionals in place to deliver them
  • Technology puts more power in hands of patients and carers, and has potential to cut out need for unnecessary journeys to cities for routine appointments and results
  • Former nurse who retired due to ill health hails tech’s potential, while carer for husband with dementia says it will prevent others going through traumatic experience
  • Four public events will be held later this month with the aim of encouraging more patients, carers and citizens to join the pilot and help test the new tech

The citizen panel information events will be held at:

Joining the panel will allow particip

EXPERTS believe new data-driven digital health technology set to be piloted across Moray will be vital in efforts to address ‘unprecedented pressure’ on frontline health and social care services and delivering better outcomes for patients throughout Scotland.

Health and social care leaders say services across Scotland face ‘serious challenges’ amid a perfect storm of declining health and mental wellbeing made worse by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis; reduced budgets and unsalvageable staffing levels; and longer life expectancy in sections of society.

They warn these factors coupled with declining numbers of people entering health and social care professions has left services at a ‘tipping point’. The situation has left current delivery models – such as on demand face-to-face GP and hospital appointments – as ‘unsustainable’, with innovative approaches and solutions the only option available to address chronic shortages of suitable staff.

The £5 million UK Government-funded Rural Centre of Excellence for Digital Health and Care Innovation (RCE) – a health and social care focused research and development project launched in 2021 as part of the Moray Growth Deal – has been set up to identify and deliver digital tech innovations that will help improve the delivery of health and social care by making services more accessible, equitable, and person-centric.

The project is led by Scotland’s Digital Health and Innovation Centre (DHI), a world-leading collaboration hosted by the University of Strathclyde in collaboration with The Glasgow School of Art (GSA) and financed by the Scottish Government and Scottish Funding Council. The project aims to drive a fundamental change in approach to health and social care that will see the public taking proactive responsibility for their own health and wellbeing through control and sharing of relevant linked data across all aspects of their lives. The approach will shift the balance of care to utilise self-management and community services in the first instance to deliver more efficient and targeted care while relieving pressure on frontline services as the population continues to age (more than 22% of the population in Moray are over 65).

Health and social care professionals partners in the project say possible applications of technology include the use of a data cloud to securely store patients personal data and create more streamlined and efficient access to integrated services such as GP appointments, routine blood tests, or referrals.

The tech would also make it easier for unpaid carers – often relatives with sole care responsibilities – to help loved ones living with health conditions access the services they need when they need them.

Moray’s rural setting makes it a perfect test bed for the new digital applications, which are also aimed at mitigating the impact of ‘rural poverty’ on access to health and social care services. Members of the public across the region are being recruited to participate in ‘living labs’ allowing their voice to be heard and to measure and prove the effectiveness of new approaches. If successful, the aim is then to roll out the tech out across other regions in Scotland and potentially beyond.

A series of four public events will be held later this month with the aim of encouraging more patients and carers to join the pilot and help test the new approach.

Dr Malcolm Simmons is a Forres-based GP Partner and GP Clinical Lead for Moray, and has been involved in the RCE project. He acknowledged that GP services are under more pressure than they ever have – and highlighted the potential for new digital approaches to help address the situation.

He said: “Our frustrations are our patient’s frustrations. We want our patients to be able to access our services easily and have timely access to hospital and secondary care tests and treatments, and we don’t want their health to deteriorate whilst waiting on NHS waiting lists. We want to provide as much access as possible, and offer a range of services in a variety of different ways, but our capacity is finite and there has been under-investment in GP services, infrastructure, and premises over many years.”

He added: “The development of the personal data store has the potential to overcome several significant practical difficulties patients, families, GPs, carers and other professionals face when trying to share information that is used to optimise the care provided to an individual. With the person controlling who has access to their information, the individual can choose to share their information with everyone who is important to them, thereby allowing health and care teams to communicate more effectively, improving care for the individual at the centre of this model.

“This will also allow the individual to communicate more easily and effectively with those involved in their care, access information about their health, test results and treatment and access information online and in their local area that helps support their health and wellbeing. In the future, everyone could have access to this technology, allowing phone or tablet real time access to results, health information and advice with up to date information about local resources and services that might help deal with health problems or encourage a healthier lifestyle.”

Simon Bokor Ingram, Chief Officer for the Moray Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “Make no mistake, we are facing serious challenges in the delivery of health and social care in Scotland – and it’s not unique to this country. We need genuine innovation and radical new approaches if we are to continue meeting the needs of the public, and that’s where this new approach will be essential.

“The pandemic is not to blame for the challenges health and social care face. It has accelerated the problem, but these fundamental issues with capacity – for example the ability to secure on demand face to face appointments – were predicted and would have emerged anyway. There is a demographic shift with people living longer and therefore placing greater demand on services that outstrips human resources. When coupled to a reduction in the number of people entering health and social care it’s inevitable there will be a tipping point – and we’ve reached it. This cannot be addressed with money alone.”

He added: “In the main, digital creates a level playing field in terms of access. Elgin is a long way from Raigmore, Aberdeen, and the Central Belt, and rural poverty – primarily around transport and proximity – is a real issue. Progressing the digital agenda can become a solution.

“Covid changed the way people are willing to access healthcare, and there is more acceptance of services being delivered in different ways. By creating access to services that can be delivered digitally through those mediums, we can cut waiting lists and reduce the need for unnecessary travel. There could be no need to travel to Aberdeen for routine appointments, blood test results could be delivered digitally through the app.

“This is not about replacing face-to-face contact, it’s about delivering services that can be delivered digitally through those mediums so there can be greater access to in person contact where it is needed.

“It works for everybody too, for an ageing population it expedites access to services needed more frequently, for younger generations there is an expectation for more services to be delivered this way.”

Janette Hughes, Director of Planning & Performance, at DHI, said: “This is about real-world testing of digital applications that could make a massive difference in the delivery of health and social care in rural settings. It’s a huge opportunity for Moray and the North of Scotland to put a pin in the map allowing citizens' voices to be heard, and in turn build a strong research platform, which will attract industry and with it the potential for new jobs and investment.

“Traditionally more investment for innovation goes to urban areas, but through the Moray Growth Deal we have a real and tangible investment in health and social care innovation that will make an impact for local communities.

“By joining the citizen panel and participating in these living labs, members of the public across Moray can potentially be involved in and then feel the benefits of these services personally, as well as contributing to a better future for health and social care in Scotland and beyond. It’s a once in a lifetime project they can be a central part of it.”

The four citizen panel information events will be held at:

Joining the panel will allow participants to keep up to date with project progress on the Digital Innovation Hub private page for Citizen Panel members only; shape the direction of the project by providing their valuable feedback during workshops, interviews or surveys; and play a part in a once in a lifetime project that could transform health and care services in Moray and beyond.

For more information, and to sign up, visit

‘It’d make you feel as if you matter’: Nurse forced to retire early due to illness excited by Moray digital health tech trial

A FORMER nurse forced to retire early due to a condition that causes repeated ‘mini-strokes’ believes new digital technology currently being trialled in Moray could ‘totally transform’ the way healthcare is delivered.
Bev Dyson, 62, worked in her ‘dream job’ as an occupational therapy assistant before she began suffering TIA (Transient ischaemic attacks) that forced her to retire in her early 50s.

Bev, who has lived in Fochabers for almost 30 years, was in and out of hospital so much it felt as though she had ‘a season ticket’, with her condition – caused by high blood pressure – also resulting in the loss of her driving licence and with it her independence.

Bev spent years travelling appointments as far away as Aberdeen and Dundee, and became ‘immensely frustrated’ by the need to repeatedly tell new health workers of her condition – with no continuity between appointments even in the same department.

The experience left her feeling isolated, frustrated, and disillusioned with the healthcare service.
She said: “Every appointment it’s the same questions. It causes a lot of anger and frustration, having to keep relaying the story. It was as if you didn’t exist – like going back to square one every time you go for a new appointment.

“The [health] service was not fit for purpose. You just wanted [healthcare workers] to take time to read your notes, listen to what you say, and save a lot of mental and physical distress. Sometimes you come away and you’re more frustrated than when you went in.”

Bev’s condition is now under control thanks to medication, and although unable to return to work, she occupies her time by painting, even selling some of her landscape and portrait acrylic work through the Cullen Art Group. She has regained her independence thanks to regaining her driving licence.

Her frustrations with health and social care services continue, but she is excited by the potential of the new digital technologies involved in the Rural Centre of Excellence (RCE) living labs, which she believes could revolutionise delivery of services. Bev, who has participated in workshops through the RCE, wants as many people as possible to sign up for the citizen panel to help develop new tech and improve health and social care for everybody.

She added: “As a patient with a long-term health condition, the work going on in Moray through the RCE is hugely exciting. Everybody singing from the same hymn sheet would make the biggest difference. It’d be a total boost – just to be understood and have all your information on tap. Even for a GP or in hospital – for them to know exactly where to start and cut out all the unnecessary questions. “You want to be able to see what information they have and know they have taken it in. You’d feel as if you’ve been listened to and that is so important for people in my position. It’d make you feel as if you matter.”

Woman caring for husband with dementia says tech could prevent others going through ‘upsetting’ experience

ONE of the greatest challenges patients and their carers – many of whom are unpaid relatives – say they face when accessing health and social care is the need to repeatedly recount information to professionals working across the same or a range of departments.

‘Mary’ – whose name has been changed to protect her identity – is a retired nurse who now cares for her husband, who lives with a form of dementia, full time. Her husband ‘Bill’ was diagnosed with the condition, which affects his memory and ability to communicate, around four years ago, and has withdrawn from his life almost completely.

Mary explained the need to repeatedly retell his story to health and social care professionals takes an enormous toll on hers and her husband’s mental wellbeing, as well as making appointments inefficient and at times completely unnecessary. However, she believes the new approach and technology set to be piloted through the RCE could improve the situation significantly by improving cooperation and coordination of services through the shared interests of all parties.

She said: “My husband’s condition has changed his life. He no longer goes out, it means he can no longer communicate in the same way he used to. He’s non verbal. To have those problems made worse through repeated health appointments that feel as though they don’t even know who you are takes its toll.

“At the start, he enjoyed talking to staff, but it was the same questions over and over again. The repetitiveness was frustrating him, and eventually became an ordeal for both of us. You want to look forward to appointments for solutions, not more problems. “Now as things have advanced with his condition, nothing has improved with the service. They know his diagnosis and the situation, but nobody checks in enough. I feel there’s a lack of joined up writing.”

She added: “This new technology and approach could change that. You just think – why has nobody done this before? It’s about putting control in the hands of patients and carers. This may not help me, or us, but it might help others. What we’ve gone through has been traumatic – from diagnosis and beyond. If this technology and approach develops, others may not have to go through it, and that’s got to be a big motivation.”

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