Island patients risk being “cut adrift” from healthcare services under current guidance

Today, Orkney’s MSP Liam McArthur and Shetland’s MSP Beatrice Wishart have called on the Scottish Government to “urgently reconsider” its advice to patients who are required to travel from the islands to mainland hospitals for operations.

At present, patients are required to shield for 14 days before surgery, which includes a prohibition on using public transport. Yet islanders undergoing more specialist treatment usually need to travel to the Scottish mainland, which involves a ferry journey or a flight.

Mr McArthur has therefore written to the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Jeane Freeman, to highlight the concerns and ask for an urgent review of these requirements.

Commenting, Mr McArthur said:

“It is standard practice for islanders to travel to hospitals on the Scottish mainland for treatment and operations. The current shielding provisions, however, take no account of the fact that this requires the use of ferries or planes. This means that isles patients are being prevented from getting the treatment they need and that is available to patients in other parts of Scotland. 

“Given the anxiety that postponed operations will have undoubtedly have created since the start of lockdown, this latest obstacle is the last thing patients in Orkney and Shetland need.

“That the guidance effectively excludes islanders from parts of the National Health Service this makes it seem as though their health care is an afterthought for the Scottish Government. I have urged the Health Secretary to reconsider their position and ensure that isles patients can safely receive the operations they have been waiting for over recent months.

Ms Wishart added:

“It is unacceptable for islanders to be cut adrift from parts of the health service.

“The Scottish Government need to quickly review their guidance, with a view to making sure that islanders have the same equity of access to health care as anyone on Mainland Scotland.”

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