SkyeLab Opening Ceremony
SkyeLab was opened in June 2021 by Kate Forbes MSP

SkyeLab was opened in June 2021 by Kate Forbes MSP.

The Ritchie Report (see heath and wellness Skye website) was an independent external review chaired by Sir Lewis Ritchie (SLR) and published in May 2018. It was prepared in response to a request from Dr David Alston, Chair of NHS Highland, to review the sustainability of Out-of-Hours (OOH) services in Skye, Lochalsh and South West Ross (SLSWR) – particularly North Skye. For more details of the report and subsequent actions, see the heath and wellness Skye website: SLR Report.

Amongst other recommendations, two of the SLR report recommendations were:

• R11. Digital Innovation: (a) Ongoing collaboration with the Digital Health & Care Institute should continue to explore and evaluate emerging digital technology to enable remote monitoring and video consultations from people’s homes. b) A review of video-conferencing facilities at all relevant care sites should be undertaken to provide reliable 24/7 professional-to-professional communications.
• R13. Centre of Excellence for Learning, Education and Training: NHS Highland should engage closely with education and training providers and including: NHS Education (NES), Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS), NHS24, Medical Schools and relevant academic partners, for example, the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI). Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) should also be included

The founders of SkyeLab believe it would contribute strongly in addressing both of these recommendations.

SkyeLab forms a component of the proposed ‘Centre of Excellence’ and it will focus on digital aspects of Health and Care Innovation, as it is by harnessing digital innovation that the founders believe scalable, affordable, sustainable and impactful improvements in self-care are possible at a local community level.
SkyeLab does not claim to be a full implementation of R11 and R13 and there are expected to be other ‘CoE’ initiatives that SkyeLab aims to contribute towards and complement work by other bodies.

Within 5 years, our vision is that SkyeLab will become an accredited Training and Demonstration Centre hosted within a Living Lab that is acknowledged as a regional, national & international exemplar in the provision of community led implementation of Digital Health Innovation specialising in rural and remote and island communities.

SkyeLab is actively collaborating with the following local groups:

  1. NHS Highland Skye : Progress made on Ritchie Centre of Excellence recommendation (scot.nhs.uk). SkyeLab was set up in response to the Ritchie Report Working Group recommendations for a ‘Centre of Excellence’ and for ‘Digital Innovation’.  Prof Ronald Macdonald, a member of the local Ritchie Working Group is a director and chairman of SkyeLab.
  2. NHS Highland TEC Services: SkyeLab has worked closely to specify the SkyeLab ‘demonstrator facility’ and also to host an NHS ‘Near Me’ access point within SkyeLab.
  3. Remote and Rural Healthcare education alliance (RRHEAL)  https://www.nes.scot.nhs.uk/our-work/remote-and-rural-healthcare-education-alliance-rrheal/  The CoE is actively collaborating with RRHEAL and SkyeLab will co-host a ‘Festival of Learning’ in 2022.  
  4. Portree and Braes Community Trust (https://www.portreeandbraes.org/health-services ) PBCT is the ‘asset-locked’ beneficiary of SkyeLab CIC assets and its Project Officer is a shared resource who provides admin support for Skyelab.
  5. Lochalsh & Skye Housing Association (https://www.lsha.co.uk/)  Iain McIvor, LSHA Director of Investment is also a director of SkyeLab.  LHSA has installed training equipment at SkyeLab for use by informal care givers.
  6. Portree Medical Group Practice (https://www.portreemedical.scot.nhs.uk/) SkyeLab is collaborating with GPs at PMGP to support the training of practice staff and in designing the Centre of Excellence for clinical staff training and CPD.
  7. Crossroads Care (http://crossroads-skye.co.uk/). Crossroads provides respite care for carers and SkyeLab plans to collaborate to evaluate how digital services can contribute to an extend the work of Crossroads in future. 
  8. University of Highlands & Islands (UHI)   https://www.uhi.ac.uk/en/about-uhi/school-of-health SkyeLab consulted with Dr Mark Grindle at Researcher in Digital Health at UHI School of Health in the production  of the Skyelab Business Plan.
  9. Scottish Digital Health and Care Innovation Centre (https://www.dhi-scotland.com).  SkyeLab has consulted with DHI’s CTO in the design of SkyeLab’s programme. Campbell Grant, one of the founders and a director of SkyeLab is a member of the Board of DHI and chairs DHI’s Industry-Education Curriculum Advisory Group.

SkyeLab’s vision statement – a ‘healthy, active, productive, independent, and socially connected community, across the generations’ iguides all aspects of our work.

However, within current finance and people resources, SkyeLab is limited in the range of services and activities it can offer and the geographic reach it has as it is physically based in Portree.

If we are successful in our funding bids, SkyeLab will employ project workers to plan a proactive outreach programme to take SkyeLab’s training, technology demonstration and digital service evaluation services to all parts of Skye & Lochalsh, using village halls and right into people’s homes. 

We will recruit, train and equip a team to design and deliver a mobile  ‘Outreach Programme’ that will go to every community on a regular rolling basis to deliver training for carers, demonstration of new and innovative services and to operate a formal research programme to evaluate what services are efficacious (and what are not) to provide data and hard evidence to support future roll-out of innovative services.

The team will adopt a ‘train the trainer’ approach by recruiting volunteers in each community to be a local SkyeLab representative and contact person, which will serve to multiply and amplify the effect of SkyeLab and help to make the service sustainable when external funding has ended.

Our programme will deliver the following outcomes:

More people will be able to stay safe and live independently for longer in their own homes, supported by self-funded digital devices and TEC enabled care services.
The community will be better informed and comfortable with the selection and use of self-funded or statutory digital services that help them live independently.
Digital natives, typically a younger generation, will be inspired and empowered to support older relatives, friends and neighbours to become more comfortable with digital technology and services.
More people with long term health conditions will be enabled by the use of digital networks and services to engage with and access physical activities that they may not be aware are open and accessible to them.

The SkyeLab Outreach Service will be designed from the outset to be accessible to everyone, regardless of background or accessibility need. We will take great care to engage with those who are uncomfortable with technology and/or who distrust digital services, rather than ignore them.

The Covid pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital services in every aspect of life and with superfast broadband and 4/5G rollout in rural areas, for better or worse, there is no going back to the ‘old ways’. But this very adoption of ‘digital by default’ may be inadvertently excluding people who are not comfortable or distrust digital – so SkyeLab Outreach will be designed to help close that divide.

SkyeLab does not believe that ‘digital everything’ is a panacea. Instead, it is a useful tool that if more people feel more comfortable to use it, will improve inter-generational communication and interaction and hence can aid independent living with an increase in engagement and active participation at a local level.

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