SCOTTISH patients will be forced to use airport-style self check-in kiosks at hospitals across the country.
Outpatients in Dumfries and Galloway, Tayside and Forth Valley, will manage their own appointments by swiping a bar-coded letter over a touch screen.
Six machines, worth £20,000 are currently being installed at outpatients clinics across Dumfries and Galloway as part of a pilot scheme by the NHS.
NHS bosses claim the scheme will bring the look of the hospitals “into the 21st century”.
But critics today have condemned the plans, calling it a “poor substitute” for talking to a receptionist.
The check-in machines are part of a pilot project aimed at ensuring patients are in the “right place at the right time” for treatment.
When patients arrive for their appointment they will be swipe an appointment letter over a touch screen that will then scan their information.
Health chiefs said the new 20 second self-scan system will give patients more privacy as they won’t need to talk to a receptionist.
But Dr Jean Turner, Executive Director of the Scotland Patients Association, said that the new self check-in system was an example of “skimpy staffing” in the NHS.
She said: “This system just shows that patients are being put on conveyor belts and not being treated like humans. Now they have to deal with a computer screen.
“But human face-to-face communication is essential. What happens if the patient forgets their letter and has nothing to scan? What happens if they have questions about their appointment? What happens if the technology breaks?
“They are spending money on machines – not people. This is just an example of skimpy staffing and people are going to think ‘no one cares about me’.
“If health bosses are going to implement this across Scotland then they should make sure they have given a great deal of consideration that includes patient feedback.”
But Scottish Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw criticised the plans.
He said: “There is a world of difference between self-checking in for a much anticipated holiday flight and arriving at a hospital, often in a state of some anxiety.
“Any pilot scheme must take note of the fact that elderly patients in particular will find talking to a dispassionate screen a very poor substitute to talking to an experienced health receptionist.”
Graham Gault, Head of Information Technology for NHS Dumfries and Galloway, said: “This is an exciting move for our patients, and a major step forward our goal to maximise the use of the most up-to-date technology in the delivery of local health care.
“The outpatients department will provide an ‘airport style’ quality of service to ensure they are in the right place at the right time for their treatment.
“These kiosks will help NHS Dumfries and Galloway provide a more streamlined, efficient service for patients.
“It means that patients can arrive for their appointment and check themselves in allowing the staff in the hospital to focus on streamlining the service.
“It will help save them time and in some cases even provide more privacy because details will not have to be discussed at the desk.”