Tavish - Sturgeon backs forcing Shetlanders on the boat


Shetland MSP Tavish Scott has blasted the First Minister after she backed NHS Shetland’s plans to make Shetlanders travelling to Aberdeen for hospital appointments use the boat.

At today’s First Minister’s Questions, Tavish asked Nicola Sturgeon to intervene. He questioned why NHS Shetland had not consulted on these changes nor assessed how the policy will affect patients across Shetland. Tavish asked Nicola Sturgeon to ensure commercial negotiations take place with Loganair aimed at reducing flying costs and therefore save money. The First Minister did not answer any of these questions.

Commenting afterwards, Tavish Scott said:

“Nicola Sturgeon came to the defence of NHS Shetland’s plan today. Shetland patients, many of whom have been in touch since Monday, will be very disappointed the First Minister did not respond to their concerns. Does she really think a 14 hour overnight ferry crossing of the North Sea in winter is an acceptable alternative to the plane for patients?

“The First Minister said that clinical judgment will determine who goes on the plane. That will place our local GPs in an invidious position. They will be forced by NHS Shetland to make this decision every day. I think that is unfair. This policy has not been assessed or thought through. Nor has there been any consultation. Nor has the NHS sought to negotiate a better deal with Loganair and save money. For such a major change, that is not good enough.

“I will be writing to the First Minister to ask her to take Shetland’s concerns seriously. I was puzzled that she said she would bring my concerns to the attention of NHS Highland. They have nothing to do with this wrong policy.”

Notes: Tavish’s question to the First Minister is below. The Official Report of their exchange is available here and a video can be viewed here

The First Minister will be aware that NHS Shetland have decided that Shetlanders with medical appointments in Aberdeen must now use the 14 hour overnight ferry service rather than a 45 minute flight south.
This policy means 2 days away from home and work for Shetlanders.
There has been no consultation. The MD of Loganair told me last night there has been no formal negotiation with the NHS to reduce flight costs and therefore make savings.
NHS Shetland said last night they could consider closing GP surgeries or the maternity unity in Lerwick. If I suggested such a course of action the First Minister would accuse me, rightly, of scare mongering.
Can I ask the First Minister to tell her appointed board to reverse this decision until:
there have been:
• There have been commercial negotiations with Loganair;
• A public consultation; and
• A full understanding of what this would mean for Shetlanders from Unst to Fair Isle?

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