Alternative plans are being explored over patient travel

NHS Shetland is exploring other options to sending passengers on the ferry to Aberdeen for hospital appointments, chairman Ian Kinniburgh said today.

NHS board chairman Ian Kinniburgh.

Members of the board discussed an item on patient travel in private this morning, despite members Malcolm Bell and Andy Glen calling for the talks to be held in public.

Following the meeting, Mr Kinniburgh said the decision the board took last month to make the ferry the default option “at the moment it is the thing the board have committed to do.”

But he added: “We have also said we want to fully understand what the alternatives are. One of the alternatives now on the table is an offer from Loganair, and we need to compare that against a more robust set of figures.”

Mr Kinniburgh stressed that the health board was “genuinely in a commercially sensitive discussion with Loganair” and the discussion was about getting the best deal for people in Shetland.

NHS Shetland had initially hoped it could save £1 million a year off its £2.8 million travel budget.

Mr Kinniburgh did not want to comment in detail on the figures involved in the plan.

“Is there now a possibility there might be an alternative solution? Yes but it depends entirely on how we proceed with negotiations with Loganair,” he said.

“It’s true to say the amount of savings we are likely to achieve by doing this [patient travel proposal] will be less than we originally thought because we’re taking more factors into account following public responses, public outcry to the proposal and it’s fair to say that Loganair have put something on the table that previously wasn’t there.

“As a board we have an obligation to consider that, and we will consider that in public, but we need to fine tune that; we need to understand the extent of Loganair’s offer and we need to understand as well as we can do what the likely final savings figure would be by moving people to the boat.”

A firm decision on patient travel would be made in a public meeting, Mr Kinniburgh said.

However, given the council elections and the announcement of a general election today and a purdah period the next meeting on patient travel would not be until June at the earliest, he added.

Loganair would also have to state they were willing to share the information about the offer too, Mr Kinniburgh said.

“That is part of the discussions we’re having with them at the moment. The fact they hadn’t given us that permission today, it just wasn’t appropriate for us to have that discussion in public.”

He felt it was right to have the meeting in private and said there was cross referencing in the meeting to the offer from Loganair.

Mr Kinniburgh said when the board considered using the ferry at first “it was the only option for us when it came to making savings”.

He said: “We are now of a view that there could be an alternative that we could potentially live with but it will put additional pressure on us to finding other ways of saving money.”

A refinement of clinical criteria, social criteria and not wanting to destabilise the ferry or airline service had all meant a revision of the saving figure.

However, despite that he thought the savings of moving people to the boat would still be “considerable” and a very large six-figure sum.

Mr Kinniburgh said he still felt the board had made the right decision when it voted in favour of the boat based on the information members had.

He added: “Whatever decision we take will be taken in public. It is only right and proper that we do that, and it’s only right and proper that we make the basis of our decision fully known to the public.”


Add Your Comment
  • Ian Tinkler

    • April 18th, 2017 19:01

    Look to Faeroe, they have full autonomy. Why not Shetland?
    Faroe Islands
    Atlantic Airways provides Bell 413 helicopters for both SAR and domestic patient transfers, Most are not critically ill or injured, but the alternative is a 2-hour ferry journey, which is often suboptimal

  • Paul Smith

    • April 18th, 2017 19:03

    Its very sad that the chairman of NHS Shetland is more concerned about saving money, that delivering safe effective patient care. In my view he should stand down his position, of both NHS Shetland and Orkney, and allow someone who is all about the patients.

    • John Ridland

      • April 19th, 2017 17:21

      Well said Paul , If they had been doing there job in the first place this sit-u would never have arisen
      time to stand down and let somebody in that has some idea how to run NHS Shetland..!!!

  • Ian Tinkler

    • April 19th, 2017 11:55

    Paul Smith, It is no use blaming Ian Kinniburgh. He can only make a judgment on how to best use the resources at his disposal. Look to the fund providers, that is the Scottish SNP Government. Health matters (Scottish NHS) have been fully devolved to Edinburg for ten years now. Free prescriptions are a great vote winner, not so good when you are ill and stuck on a ferry! I do not suppose the SNP are too worried about Shetland voters, they have always rejected the Nationalists. Now an autonomous or independent Shetland could prioritise the wellbeing of Shetland folk.

  • Paul Smith

    • April 20th, 2017 9:42

    Morning Ian. I have to agree to an extent, that his hands are tied, but he does have a say on how he saves money across the bigger budget. Why not look at the structure of the health board. We seem to haemorrhage staff Ie nurses and GP, we are also management heavy. For somewhere so small we have a significant number of managerial layers. Lets actually cut back on that and save money. Rather than direct patient care. I still stand by my original comment, he should stand down and let a more experienced person who has the patients at the heart of care delivery run the service.


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