Shetland MSP Tavish Scott today met Health Secretary Shona Robison and pressed for NHS Shetland to be properly funded. This follows the Board’s proposal to save money by making patients travel to Aberdeen by ferry rather than plane.
The proposal, which has been been heavily criticised across the islands, came after NHS Shetland admitted it needed to find around £4m of savings follwing the Scottish Government’s draft budget. Last week the Board discussed further steps to change their position but held the discussion in private. A final decision is to be made on 23rd June.
During today’s meeting with the Health Secretary, Tavish highlighted the concerns shared by constituents about the impact of the travel policy, particularly for those who would not benefit from planned exemptions. He also raised the need to minimise the number of visits patients make to Aberdeen particularly for brief consultation meetings. These should be done by phone, skype or video conference.
Commenting after the meeting in the Scottish Parliament, Tavish said:
“It is no secret that NHS Shetland faces challenges as a result of underfunding from the Scottish Government. I know that many Shetlanders are sympathetic to those challenges.
“However, an approach to saving money by forcing people on a 14 hour ferry instead of a quick flight to Aberdeen was not acceptable. Even worse it is now glaringly apparent that the health board simply had not thought their proposal through. It is important that sensible negotiations are now taking place with Loganair over flight costs. That should have happened first.
“But the overall NHS Shetland budget is too small. There is simply not enough cash in the pot. Shetland’s health needs will only increase over the next few years. I want the Scottish Government to recognise that health funding must increase to meet the islands’ needs.”