health service.

People in rural areas of Aberdeenshire and in Orkney are already using the technology at their GP surgery or community hospital to seek advice from doctors at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.

Now the Scottish Centre for Telehealth will be integrated into NHS 24 to expand the use of technology in patient care across the country, and to allow experts to treat patients’ conditions from afar.

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Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said: “New technology offers some incredibly exciting possibilities for ­giving people better access to healthcare in the 21st century.

“The Scottish Centre for Telehealth has already been helping individual NHS boards devise ways of using technology to reach out to patients in our more ­isolated areas, and those with ­

mobility issues.

“But by integrating it within NHS 24, we can ensure that use of telehealth is spread right across Scotland and benefits patients in all our communities.”

The Scottish Centre for Telehealth, which was established in 2006 and has a budget of almost £1m a year, already assists in a range of ­projects, such as linking facilities

without specialist ­paediatric units to one of Scotland’s ­children’s hospitals.

The government’s draft budget for 2010/11 includes investment of £134.7m in eHealth, a rise of 38.6%.