15 March 2017
Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant is contacting NHS Western Isles and NHS Orkney to urge health chiefs not to follow Shetland’s lead and bring in routine ferry transport for patients with hospital appointments.
Mrs Grant, who took up the issue in August last year with the three health authorities, says she is “appalled” that the board of NHS Shetland has voted to tell patients to make the long trip by overnight ferry instead of booking the short flight to Aberdeen for hospital appointments and treatment.
She is asking NHS Shetland to reconsider the move.
“Imagine if you are unwell and on a ferry for that length of time. It beggars belief that as a caring society we should be asking patients to do this when there’s the alternative of a short flight there and back,” she said.
“Having used a variety of ferries as MSP, I know what the conditions can be like in winter, with some sailings cancelled.
“When ferries do set sail in rough conditions, I know there are many people who are just not good sailors and feel very sick.
“To add this to people who are already unwell for whatever reason is just not acceptable.”
In August Mrs Grant questioned the viability of the plan by island NHS boards to consider making patients take the ferry instead of flying to appointments on the mainland, saying using a ferry could have knock on costs related to overnight stays, mileage, or public transport costs.
Health officials in the Western Isles, Shetland and Orkney islands admitted then that transport budgets would be cut as they try to make millions of pounds of savings.
“The Scottish Government has to take some blame for this move, backing health chiefs into a corner with slashed budgets and the need for continued savings,” said Mrs Grant.
“I hope political pressure will come to bear on the board to rethink this decision, for the sake of their patients.”