NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Launch VR Antenatal Clinic

pregnant women

The virtual reality (VR) antenatal clinic will save doctors a significant amount of travel time leaving more time for direct clinical care. 

A virtual reality (VR) clinic has been launched in partnership with NHS Highland to enable women in rural locations to gain access to antenatal care more easily.

Women in Argyll, until recently, have been patients of NHS Highland but received consultant antenatal care from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Board HQ (NHSGGC). This meant that, once a week, a consultant obstetrician would make a weekly trip from Glasgow to Oban – a 180 mile round-trip – to monitor patients at various stages of their pregnancy.

Similar to Facetime, the new VR clinic enables the doctor to run their clinic from Paisley every second week. Welcoming the new service, Dr Liz Blair said it had brought benefits to both staff and women since its introduction last year.

Blair said: “As it’s mostly young women I am seeing, they are already used to this type of technology and don’t seem fazed by it at all. Before I ‘see’ each woman I chat through things on screen with the woman’s midwife, who will already have carried out the usual checks on blood pressure, urine etc. The midwife can update me on the woman’s background, antenatal history and other issues, which helps tremendously when the consultation starts.

“I see women at all stages of their pregnancy and during the clinic we could be discussing everything from how straight forward or complicated their pregnancy is to where they will give birth and any difficulties they are experiencing. It’s all done face-to-face so you still feel you are really able to gauge how women are feeling.”

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Thanks to the introduction of the VR clinic, Blair now only has to make the journey once a fortnight. She said: “The train for Oban leaves at 4.17am so it makes for a really long day if I travel up that way! It makes much more sense for me to be seeing women in a virtual clinic rather than spending so much time travelling.

“For example after my morning clinic I will be delivering babies via c-section in the afternoon, rather than travelling back down the road. I am sure everyone agrees it’s a much better use of my time!”

Similarly, the clinic also means that women on far flung islands no longer have to travel to Oban for their checkups. Due to its success there are already plans to expand the VR service.

“At the moment women on Mull and Tiree would travel to Oban either to see me or have a virtual consultation. We are working with NHS Highland to expand this really beneficial service and this will mean that I can see them face to face without them having to leave the island.

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Heather Hannah, a sail maker from Barcaldine near Oban, who is pregnant with her second child, said: “My second baby is due on the 7th of June but this was the first time I had used the virtual clinic. I think it worked really well and it just felt like the doctor was there.

“I had some complications during the birth of my first baby and we were able to discuss the risks around this one. The baby is also measuring a bit small so we decided that the safest things all round would be for me to have the baby at Paisley. That way, if I do need any help it’s all there.

“I enjoyed the consultation and being able to see the doctor put me at ease. I would definitely recommend it to friends and it’s so much better than having to travel or have a doctor travel to see me.”

Another patient, Linda Brown, who is expecting her third child, said of the clinic: “As a nurse I completely understand that the NHS needs to use its resources wisely so I think this is a great idea. It will be even better when it’s rolled out to Mull and other islands. It’s the next logical step.

“The consultant was lovely and we chatted through my options this time around. I had an emergency section with my second baby so we decided that I would have another section this time. I feel really re-assured that I will have a date and can start to make plans.”

Jaki Lambert, an acting head of midwifery from NHS Highland, said: “We are really happy to support this new way of providing care. Women told us they wanted to travel less and we have listened to them.

“Best Start forward plan for maternity care is all about increasing the continuity of care that women receive and this project does just that and builds on relationship-based care.”

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