A new national digital dermatology programme will be launched to help speed up treatment and reduce waiting lists.
By capturing quality digital images of a patient’s skin concern when they visit their GP or primary care provider the programme will, where clinically appropriate, allow a senior dermatologist to triage, diagnose and assess some skin conditions without the need for patients to attend an appointment. People will then either be treated by their GP, directed to a more suitable service for their skin concern like an acne clinic or be offered a face-to-face appointment at a dermatology clinic, with those who need it directly scheduled for treatment or surgery.
Dermatology is one of the biggest outpatient specialties with over 46,000 patients on the waiting list for a first appointment at the end of March 2023. This new programme, backed by £1.8 million of funding, could potentially reduce demand for outpatient dermatology appointments by up to 50 per cent with the potential for up to 90 percent of referrals across Scotland to include a digital image.
Health Secretary Michael Matheson said:
"The Scottish Government is determined to reduce waiting times across all specialities, and we know that dermatology is one of the busiest when it comes to demand for outpatient appointments.
"This new programme will lead to a better and quicker service for patients – allowing clinicians to see patients in the right place sooner. It has the potential to significantly reduce waiting times.
“Innovation like this is vital for the future of our healthcare service and I am excited to see the real benefits that will come from programmes like this in the years to come.”
Dr Stuart Sutton, GP and clinical lead for primary and secondary care interface working, said:
“Having a fast, effective and secure way for Primary Care teams to send images of our patient’s skin conditions to specialist colleagues will ensure more rapid and most appropriate advice and treatment is available - a picture provides a level of detail that cannot be conveyed in a traditional referral letter.”
Fiona Macdonald, Consultant Dermatologist and Centre for Sustainable Delivery (CfSD) Clinical Lead for Dermatology said:
“Managing referrals during the pandemic highlighted to Dermatologists how important a good quality image is to a Dermatology referral. It can help us prioritise the most urgent referrals, choose the right treatment pathway or offer advice to support care provided in Primary care”.
Notes to editors
This system will begin rolling out to the first Territorial Boards in early 2024 and then adopted across Scotland.
The digital dermatology programme is one of the first innovations to be approved for national rollout through the Accelerated National Innovation Adoption (ANIA) Pathway.
ANIA is a collaborative venture that is co-ordinated by the national Centre for Sustainable Delivery at NHS Golden Jubilee and involves NHS National Services Scotland, Healthcare Improvement Scotland, Public Health Scotland, Digital Health & Care Directorate and NHS Education for Scotland.