Patients should be encouraged to use public transport rather than taxis wherever possible when travelling to appointments, a meeting of NHS Shetland’s board heard today.
The issue of saving money on transport arose when a financial report presented to the board revealed a huge overspend on the patient travel scheme. According to figures prepared by financial director Colin Marsland, this cost nearly a quarter of a million pounds more between April and June this year compared to the same period last year.
Board chief executive Ralph Roberts said that responsibility for NHS Shetland patient transport costs passed from the Scottish government to the local board in April this year. Now that there was local control of the budget, Mr Roberts said the board would focus on the issue.
He said: “We are working with a blank sheet of paper. Work is being done to understand and analyse the expenditure.”
Mr Roberts said the board would have ongoing discussions about the expenditure with the Scottish government, which has agreed to jointly manage the risk for the next two years.
The cost of patient transport, both within Shetland and from Shetland to the mainland, is about £2 million per year. During the first three months of this financial year, £224,000 more has been spent in this area than in the same period last year.
Board member Catriona Waddington called the figure “stunning” and fellow board member Keith Massey was worried that the cost of patient transport was “uncontrollable”.
Medical director Roger Diggle said savings could be made if people took public transport instead of taxis between airports and ferry terminals and hospital.
Mr Roberts said consideration would be given to “better choices” about the need for patients to go to Aberdeen – they could possibly have telecare or be seen in Shetland clinics.
Transport would also be looked at. Instead of four individuals taking four taxis from one of the isles, for example, people could share lifts, and appointments could be co-ordinated to fit in with public transport.
Mr Roberts said: “We want to make sure it’s equitable.” It was “logical” to take the budget under local control, he added.