Heart patients in the UK have become the first in the world to use a new mobile station to assess their pacemakers without the need for a nurse, doctor or visit to hospital.

The hi-tech CareLink Express, has been launched at the Bitterne Park Medical Centre in Southampton, Hampshire, as part of a pilot study, enabling people fitted with the devices to have instant check-ups at times that suit them.

Its introduction, part of University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust's remote monitoring programme, is designed to provide care closer to home, cut waiting times and missed appointments and free up staff to treat patients in hospital.

Pacemakers are small electronic devices implanted in the chest to help regulate patients' heartbeats and regular monitoring allows experts to examine any changes in heart rhythm and intervene before patients become unwell or in need of hospital admission.

Patients with pacemakers routinely visit hospital for follow-up appointments once or twice a year, during which staff can spend about 20 minutes retrieving data during one-to-one consultations.

The mobile station means they do not need to attend fixed appointments - they head straight to the box, take a seat, follow the on-screen instructions and hold a monitor to their pacemaker for a few minutes.

Hospital staff are then able to access the data remotely through a secure server using a monitoring system known as CareLink and download it for review.

The innovation, which has been shortlisted for a Health Service Journal value in healthcare award, follows the introduction of the first walk-in pacemaker assessment booth at Southampton General Hospital in 2011.

Professor John Morgan, a consultant cardiologist and remote monitoring lead, said: "We are constantly looking at ways we can free up patients who don't need to see medical staff from having to attend clinics while focusing staff time on the minority of patients who actually need to see a doctor.

"It's the sort of innovation we need to see more of in the health service to improve the use of NHS resources."