NHS Orkney asked for travel policy assurances

Ian Kinniburgh, the chairman of NHS Orkney and NHS Shetland.

The chairman of NHS Orkney, Ian Kinniburgh, has been asked for formal assurances that Orkney patients heading south for treatment will not be forced to travel by ferry.

The call, by Orkney MSP Liam McArthur, follows a change to NHS Shetland’s travel policy which will see patients expected to take the ferry south. Mr Kinniburgh is also the chairman of NHS Shetland.

Although NHS Orkney’s chief executive Cathie Cowan has said that the travel policy change would not be replicated in Orkney, Mr McArthur said that in light of “ongoing public anxiety in Orkney” it is important for NHS Orkney to put on record that there is no plans to follow suit.

He said: “I certainly welcome the informal assurances provided to me by NHS Orkney’s chief executive. However, reports of what is apparently being planned for Shetland patients have given rise to understandable anxiety here in Orkney.

“It is entirely reasonable therefore to seek categorical assurances that similar plans are not being considered in an Orkney context.

“Like most people in Orkney, I would be entirely opposed to any change in NHS Orkney’s travel policy that resulted in patients being forced to take long and potentially arduous ferry journeys to Aberdeen.

“I look forward to receiving urgent clarification from NHS Orkney’s chairman that this will not happen.”