Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has invited the Chief Executive of NHS Western Isles to discuss the Health Board’s system of approving NHS-funded patient escorts.

In March NHS Western Isles announced a new system for approving requests for NHS-funded escorts, with the Health Board’s Medical Director now making the decision where this had previously been the responsibility of the patient’s GP.

While there were no changes made to the criteria for approving escorts or to the Patient Travel Policy, it appears the criteria are now being much more strictly enforced.

This has resulted in the local MSP taking up a number of cases of constituents who had requests for escorts refused.

Alasdair Allan MSP said: “I have seen a marked increase in the number of people contacting me to say the Health Board has refused their request for an escort. In many cases people were very distressed, and any compassionate person viewing their situation would understand the need for someone to be with them.

“This is especially true of cancer patients who will be travelling to the mainland to receive a diagnosis or begin their treatment. Receiving a cancer diagnosis is an incredibly traumatic experience.

"People who have gone through this describe the experience as just washing over them and that they were not in the right state of mind to process what was going on.

“There are a range of organisations throughout the islands who have written to the Health Board expressing similar concerns. Overall, it does feel as though the current policy is far too restrictive and that much greater flexibility can and should be shown to patients.

“A number of suggestions have been made about how the system could be improved, and I have written to the Chief Executive of NHS Western Isles, Gordon Jamieson, asking him to meet with interested organisations and myself to discuss these at a roundtable event. I hope he will respond positively to this request.”