Orkney’s MSP, Liam McArthur, has today (Wednesday) repeated calls for the Health Secretary to urgently update the shielding advice for isles patients who need to travel to the Scottish mainland for medical treatment.
Under the current guidance, all patients must shield for two weeks before their surgery or operation, which excludes them from using any form of public transport, including planes and ferries.
During First Minister’s Questions, Mr McArthur highlighted that this two-week quarantine period effectively prevents isles patients from accessing specialist treatment at hospitals on the Scottish mainland. Orkney’s MSP urged Nicola Sturgeon to update these requirements following written representations he made to the Health Secretary on the issue last month.
In response, the First Minister provided an assurance that new guidance is being finalised and will be published shortly with appropriate arrangements in place for isles patients who need to travel.
Afterwards, Mr McArthur commented:
“The current guidance clearly hasn’t taken into consideration the fact that patients from Orkney and Shetland need to use a plane or ferry to travel to hospitals on the Scottish mainland. As such, islanders are being denied access to healthcare available to patients elsewhere in the country.
“Many patients in Orkney have already experienced delays to operations and treatment as a result of the lockdown restrictions. Any further, unnecessary delay could pose risks to those affected while also adding to their stress and anxiety during what is an already difficult time.
“I wrote to the Health Secretary last month highlighting these concerns and asking for an urgent review of the guidance. While patient safety must always be the primary consideration, this should not act as a barrier to islanders getting the treatment they need.
“I welcome the First Minister’s recognition of this problem and her assurance that steps are being taken to address it through updated guidance. That guidance is already in place in other parts of the UK, however, so I would hope that the changes can be introduced without delay.”