Islanders may be forced to take ferry for medical appointments

19 August 2016

Highlands & Islands MSP Rhoda Grant has questioned the viability of the plan by island NHS Boards, who are considering making patients take the ferry instead of flying to appointments on the mainland, as they review travel subsidies.

Health officials in the Western Isles, Shetland and Orkney islands have all admitted transport budgets will be cut as they try to make millions of pounds of savings.

The subsidised travel service provides a vital link between islanders and hospitals on the mainland as well as enabling them to attend appointments.

It has been reported that in the Shetland Islands, where Health Managers are having to slash the £2.9 million budget by a sixth, a consultation is to be launched on patient travel.

Rhoda said : “ I would urge caution before taking this proposed action.

“A patient, accompanied or not, can in many cases fly to the mainland for an appointment and return to the island the same day.

“This is far more unlikely to happen if they have to utilise ferries, so there will be knock on costs related to overnight stays and other associated costs for example mileage, or public transport costs.”

“Allied to this, the one key element relating to these proposals that seems to have been overlooked,

is patient care.

“How cared for is an elderly person going to feel when they have to undertake a long ferry trip whilst they are in poor health?”

Rhoda continued :

“ I have written to the Health Boards covering our island communities and asked them if the Government have provided sufficient funding to cover patient transport, as this cost has now been rolled up as part of their annual settlement from Government.”