NHS board wants more people to use public transport for appointments

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.


Add Your Comment
  • Sandy McMillan

    • August 14th, 2012 20:37

    I travel to Glasgow Gartnavel Hospital 3-4 trips per year, own to the flights i have to stay overnight, I have to pay for my Dinner, Lunch and Tea, not only that i have to look for my over night stay, I try to look for the cheapest room i can get and as close to my appointment as possable, this at certain times of the year is near on impossable, as bus routes have been effected by the cuts, and in some cases are as expensive as a taxi, when you have mobility problems a taxi is the only mean to get from A to B.
    Sandy McMillan

  • Stewart Mack

    • August 15th, 2012 14:00

    If NHS Shetland could provide some or all of the services on the islands then the need for patent travel would be dramatically reduced – 2 and a quarter million could surely pay for a lot of specialist doctors – Perhaps even some shared with Ornkey who must have their own transport costs. Perhaps now they are accountable it will help concentrate minds as to whats important for the island

  • Malcolm Reeves

    • August 15th, 2012 15:05

    I attend a couple of clinics at ARI & Woolmanhill, on one visit in particular there were 5 other people from Shetland for the same clinic (sleep clinic) after talking with the nurse I found out that there were four others that same day (10 in total (although there can be less than 10) each getting a 15 minute appointment.
    Now here’s a thought, why doesn’t the clinic come to Shetland for 2-3 days every two or three months? This would make a huge saving.

    *The sleep clinic at ARI is only open 3 days a week so could easily adapt to visit Shetland.

    Malcolm Reeves, Ollaberry.

  • Johan Adamson

    • August 16th, 2012 9:33

    GP practices should be involved in the ongoing discussions as they will be the ones referring patients. It is a really positive move to have control of the budget tho as it is now possible to use the money for more clinics here where it wasnt before. There used to be a bus to the hospital from the plane – does that still exist to save taxis?

  • Sylvia M Pries

    • August 16th, 2012 12:40

    Is it really financially better to have patients travel to Lerwick from Unst (for example) to attend physiotherapist appointments?

    We used to have that service visiting the north isles, but I believe that has changed so that patients now have to travel to Lerwick for these.

    Surely it would be more economical to have a physiotherapist travelling north and covering the isles.

    It would also be much more sensible for the elderly, who may not feel up to making the journey to Lerwick at all.

  • Lindsay Wiseman

    • August 16th, 2012 14:36

    A Red Cross mini bus meets patients at the airport for visits to ARI etc. Bookings can be made with the Patient Travel Dept. at GBH when making travel arrangements to Aberdeen. This system is very handy, saves getting a bus into Aberdeen then another bus out to the required hospital appointments.


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