A new unit that allows doctors to give a remote diagnosis of heart defects in unborn babies hundreds of miles away has opened in Bristol.
The unit will help cut down on stress for the patient and family
The Telemedicine Suite at Bristol Children's Hospital works using ISDN phoneline technology.
Specialist consultants in one hospital will be able to immediately diagnose unborn babies or critically ill children born in a different hospital.
The suite includes £30,000 of new equipment including video-conferencing.
This is the first time in the region that telemedicine has been used for real time remote diagnosis of congenital heart disease and could be used to diagnose more than 100 cases a year.
The suite has been designed by Dr Andrew Tometzki, Consultant Paediatric and Fetal Cardiologist, for use by all specialists within Bristol Children's Hospital.
"A baby born with a suspected heart defect would normally have to be transferred to Bristol by ambulance, which is time-consuming and very stressful for the patient and family, let alone the expense of critical care ambulances," he said.
"This facility allows remote diagnosis aiding the intensive care retrieval team in the care of the child at a critical time, though in some cases hazardous transfer can be avoided altogether."
Bristol doctors have also been able to diagnose and advise on the management of cardiac abnormalities of sick infants and children in Truro prior to them being transferred to Bristol by the regional Paediatric Intensive Care Retrieval Service based at Bristol Children's Hospital.
"We can now carry out a scan here in Truro whilst Dr Tometzki watches this live in Bristol," said Mr Dominic Byrne, Consultant Fetal medicine specialist at Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust.
"I can talk to him throughout the scan and he can then talk direct to the parents and use drawings or weblinks to clarify explanations."
Other centres are in the process of setting up links with the unit aided by local charities.
The suite has also become a resource for 'E-learning', with training lectures and seminars being broadcast from Bristol to paediatric centres around the country.