A NEW initiative will see libraries across Scotland help people to access public sector services including health and social care. 

The “NearMe in Libraries” scheme is aiming to build on the existing “NearMe” video consulting service which enables people to attend appointments remotely. 

The service is already widely used across Scotland for health and social care appointments with around 45,000 consultations being held every month. 

It is now being piloted across a range of public service libraries in order to enhance accessibility. 

READ MORE: Legal right to free period products in Scotland to come into force on Monday

From Monday, the “Near me in Libraries” pilot will see public libraries in East Lothian, Edinburgh and Orkney become the “go-to” place in their communities for video consultations, if home is not an option. 

Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC) chief executive Pamela Tulloch has welcomed the opportunity to expand the role local libraries play in the community. 

She said: “Local libraries provide a safe alternative to home and are ideally positioned to support people at risk of digital exclusion, especially in terms of health and care services. 

“Networked with free public Wi-Fi, users have access to private and confidential spaces, with trained staff available to support with their digital literacy needs.”

The new initiative is not a walk-in service but individuals are able to schedule a “Near Me” appointment with dedicated space being reserved for the scheme in the libraries.  

The Scottish Government Technology Enabled Team has given £20,000 of funding to the “Near Me in Libraries” programme. 

It will allow selected libraries to purchase equipment and make necessary refurbishments and IT updates to provide the service. 

Tulloch continued: “By using public libraries as a venue for ‘Near Me,’ clients and patients can access the help they need without having to travel a significant distance from home. 

“Our libraries are free and accessible safe spaces that can provide convenient and confidential online access.”

Similar facilities are set to be made available in Moray and Ayrshire later this month.

READ MORE: Scotland’s councils plan ‘warm banks’ to help freezing Scots this winter

Other areas including Dumfries & Galloway, The Highlands, Midlothian, Renfrewshire and South Lanarkshire are all expected to introduce the service in the coming months. 

National improvement lead for the “Near Me” programme Rosie Cooper said: “The libraries selected cover a diverse range of settings and population types and will be used to test the feasibility. 

“This will include creating confidential booking systems and establishing communication and partnership with local services.”

Pilot results will set the groundwork to inform further rollout for public libraries across the country to begin delivering the programme as part of their core services.