Following the announcement that Health Secretary, Jeane Freeman, has ordered NHS Western Isles to set up a working group on funding for patient escorts, Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, said that the region’s travel scheme should be reintroduced to solve the problem.
“While I welcome the working group being set up, this problem was caused by the Scottish Government no longer meeting travel costs over and above the NHS Budget, while at the same time cutting budgets,” she said.
“This has meant that NHS boards look to making savings and sadly this has had a terrible effect on patients travelling for treatment. Many are very worried about what lies ahead and may be travelling to receive a diagnosis.
“Doctors often tell patients to take someone with them in order that they can better recall what they are being told.
“This comes at a price for island patients and needs to be addressed. The working group needs to find a solution, but I also think the Cabinet Secretary should reintroduce and fund the Highlands and Islands travel scheme and that would solve the problem.”
Ms Freeman told Mrs Grant she has asked that the working group have patient group representatives. Ms Freeman also wants to group to report back to her by mid-July.
Mrs Grant previously took up concerns from constituents and the Western Isles Cancer Care Initiative.
The cancer care group is pressing for automatic entitlement to an escort for anyone attending a mainland appointment for a life changing diagnosis, also for any patient going to a mainland appointment for their initial treatment plan and that specialist nurses involved directly with a patient’s care (Macmillan, MS, Dementia) should be able to recommend approval of escorts whilst patients are in their care, rather than being referred through the medical director.