8:10am Thursday 18th March 2010
DOCTORS could soon be assessing inmates at Winchester Prison over a video link.
Health chiefs heard that around 200 prisoners were taken to the Royal Hampshire County Hospital in 2008/09.
While the jail is directly opposite the hospital in Romsey Road, moving an inmate across the street can be awkward.
Members of Winchester and Eastleigh Healthcare NHS Trust, who last met on Wednesday, March 3, heard that prison staff had to be present at all times.
As a result, officers were unable to perform their duties inside the jail, but that could be set to change.
The hospital has taken delivery of a ‘telemedicine’ video link, funded by a £43,000 NHS grant.
Its initial goal was to allow experts in Winchester to examine patients at the Andover minor injury unit.
Trust board members heard that 548 patients were moved from the Andover unit to Winchester last year.
Ruth Buckley from accident and emergency, who updated the board on the project, said telemedicine aims to reduce those trips.
She used 11 recent Andover patients as a case study, of which seven did not have to come to Winchester.
“The patients have been delighted, and we’ve been excited about that too.”
She added that another potential use for telemedicine would be to assess inmates at the nearby jail.
Trust chief executive, Martin Wakeley, said there were “limitless” uses for the new technology.
He said: “We haven’t even scratched the surface yet. The difficulty we face here is that we’re way ahead of the market.”
He added that the technology was already used widely in Australia, where hospitals are much further apart.
Board members heard that three Winchester staff had already been trained to use the new equipment, which costs £20,000 per year to maintain.