Virgin are in my bad books. First they take the NHS in York to the CCP accusing them of predatory pricing because York NHS beat Virgin to a contract by charging lower prices. Then Virgin gain 18 contracts throughout the UK to run anything from community care to sexual services. Worse still, this week, the story broke of their 5 year ill treatment of Virgin Media customers who suffer death. Instead of showing compassion Virgin go on to threaten and abuse the family members left behind to settle unpaid bills.
Now Virgin have teamed up with 7 PCTs in the NHS Lancashire area to help deliver "virtual" or "video" diagnosis. It works as follows. You switch on your camera on your computer, give me a peek & I'll tell you if your gonna have a stroke or not. Well, it is not quite like that since I am not qualified to diagnose, and they'll probably have a proper camera (or a "telekart" as they're calling it) but the basics are the same. A dude will now diagnose you down a camera. This paves the way to reduce expertise on site, to cease the employment of surgeons and simply perform diagnosis remotely. If this technology is beneficial, and it might be, use it on-site. Give the surgeon a hand held interactive device that he can carry whilst moving about the ward. The danger is the off site provision and those occasions when things go wrong.
Now here's the nitty gritty. The cameras will be placed in emergency wards of Lancashire hospitals and used in out of hours services. The whole sheebang comes complete with a help desk. The people behind this project say that its unique selling point is that if the nurse on site cannot use equipment because she has "forgotten" how to use it that this remote video conferencing will be able to help. One might be inclined to ask why there cannot be a doctor on site, and whether the nurse will not so much forget but more be a Health Care Assistant who is not trained or qualified to use the equipment. Either way, the growing use of virtual technology be it virtual wards, or video conferencing should concern us all. As the expert involved explains (I quote) "It is essentially Skype messaging" (see more here).