Patients travelling to Aberdeen will be asked to take the ferry for appointments after NHS Shetland agreed this morning to make it the “default” option in a bid to cut costs.
Members of the health board voted in favour of using the NorthLink service which could save £1 million per year.
“Specific categories” of patients, will continue to travel by plane, where there is an agreed clinical need.
Health bosses also agreed this morning that patients will be able to book their own travel, with use of the ADS discount, if they prefer to travel by plane.
They will then be given a reimbursement up to the value of their ferry cost from the health board.
About 30 per cent of patient travel costs are spent on escorts.
The meeting heard that the latest proposal would mean more patients being able to travel with an escort as a cabin would be booked for the journey.
According to the report: “This option would affect all trips to Aberdeen and would not be limited to individuals who may be eligible for an escort.
“Where the ferry was unable to provide a cabin the board would offer the patient a flight as currently arranged.
“Since the board would already be booking a cabin for the patient, they would be able to take an escort with them at limited extra cost.”
NHS Shetland is looking to bring in the change by 1st of April and trial it initially for a period of 12 months.
It comes as the target aims to make savings of about £4.7 million with the patient travel budget accounting for £2.8 million of its spending.
After a lengthy discussion, the proposal went to a vote, with six-four in favour of the plans.
SIC convener Malcolm Bell was among the members who voted against the proposal.
He said it was important to tackle the root of the problem, rather than treat “the symptoms” and called for further measures to cut patient travel costs.
More in Friday’s Shetland Times