An urgent resolution on how chemotherapy medication is transported to the Western Isles is needed, says Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan, after it was revealed that the current method of air transportation could cease.
Presently, chemotherapy medication is delivered to NHS Western Isles via an air freight service between Inverness and Stornoway.
The company providing security screening of air cargo at Inverness Airport, Dalcross Logistics, are considering withdrawing from this role in light of falling revenue and increasing costs – with excessive charges from the UK Civil Aviation Authority contributing majorly to this.
There are strict conditions that surround the transfer of chemotherapy medication, and alternative transportation by ferry would present a number of issues in terms of the shelf lives of medication, and the possibility of cancelled or delayed sailings, especially in the winter.
The islands MSP has raised the issue with the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, and has also called on the UK Civil Aviation Authority to be aware of the impact its charges are having on vital services to the islands and to use discretion in levying them.
Alasdair Allan said:“It is simply unacceptable that many cancer patients in the Western Isles could potentially lose their ability to receive treatment on-island. While I do not believe there is any prospect of that happening in the next few months, beyond that we need to have a solution in place.
“It seems particularly unfair that the charges levied by the Civil Aviation Authority on security screening operations from Inverness Airport do not seem to seem to take into account the relatively small-scale of the operation there, or the fact that without it vital consignments of drugs, medical items and other essential items could not be delivered.
"The Civil Aviation Authority should put in place a charging regime that ensures a sustainable service to the islands going forward.
“NHS Western Isles would be put in an absolutely impossible situation if this service were withdrawn and would have to rapidly reinvent its whole provision of essential medication to cancer patients.
“As the local MSP, I will push all agencies involved to find a resolution to this issue that ensures island cancer patients can continue to access the treatment they need as close to home as possible.”