Two Argyll politicians, Jamie McGrigor, Highlands & Islands MSP and Councillor Donald Kelly of South Kintyre, have joined in expressing their concerns about a change in NHS patient transport policy.
This means that patients from Campbeltown and Kintyre who are being treated at hospitals in Glasgow will not routinely be provided with transportation to Glasgow Airport to allow them to fly home to Campbeltown, as has been the case until recently.
The policy change, which came into operation around 2 weeks ago, means most patients will have to return to Campbeltown via road ambulance, unless a family member is present in Glasgow who can get them to Glasgow Airport.
Patients recovering from hospitalisation are unlikely to be helped by the four hour road journey back home.
We are also entering the time of the year when the weather and the vulnerability of the hillside above the A83 at Rest and Be Thankful are wont to combined in landslides that close this arterial road carrying the ambulances through Kintyre to Campbeltown.
With Transport Scotland having failed badly to fulfil its promise to have an emergency diversion route for such occasions ready for this winter, these diverted post-operative Kintyre patients may face an additional road diversion of 60 miles into the mountains and in bad weather.
Speaking today [10th December] Councillor Donald Kelly, who flagged the matter up with Jamie McGrigor MSP, said: ‘This new policy has meant people staying in hospital waiting for the next ambulance to take them home – sometimes for 2 or 3 days more than is necessary.
‘I have been contacted by constituents who have had first-hand experience of this ridiculous change in policy.
‘ I am also very concerned that this new system will affect the vitality of the lifeline Campbeltown air service, due to falling numbers using the plane.’
Jamie McGrigor said: ‘I will be taking this matter up with both the Chief Executive of NHS Highland and the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Alex Neil.
‘The previous system whereby patients needing to return home to Campbeltown were provided with transport to Glasgow Airport for the onward flight to Campbeltown worked well and was efficient. It prevented patients who were ready to go home waiting in hospital unnecessarily.’
It would be interesting to see a comparison of the costs involved here – with the continued bed occupancy by such patients in Glasgow hospitals for the numbers of days involved and the opportunity cost lost to the use of those beds and facilities for other patients in need of admission.
This seems a policy in every way in need of serious interrogation.