NHS Shetland has announced changes to its patient escort policy – with people in receipt of some benefit payments automatically allowed accompaniment.
The health board said as of 1st September patients receiving Higher Level Disability Living Allowance or Enhanced Personal Independence Payment are entitled to an escort.
In order to book an extra traveller they must produce a current award letter for the payments.
This means they no longer need authorisation from a GP or clinician.
Other people who feel they need an escort because of medical reasons should submit a request form to their GP practice, completed by the patient or carer.
NHS Shetland said this can be completed at the surgery and handed in, or filled in electronically through the website at: http://www.shb.scot.nhs.uk/departments/patienttravel/patientescorts.asp
The health board said it has updated criteria to help understanding of the process and also make sure there is consistency in approvals by health staff.
During controversial talks earlier this year to send the majority of patients by ferry to Aberdeen, NHS Shetland said it spent about £2.8 million a year on patient travel, with about 30 per cent of the travel budget being spent on escorts.
NHS Shetland chief executive Ralph Roberts, said: “We have been working with our clinicians for a while to agree the revised escort criteria and we believe this is now as self-explanatory and robust as we can make it.
“This should be a far more straightforward process for our patients and will also support our GPs in determining if an escort should be approved for those patients that are not automatically eligible but have support needs for off island appointments.
“We also hope that these changes will remove some of the perceived inequality regarding the approval of escorts. We will keep the revised process, and any feedback we receive about escort travel under review in the coming months.”