Return journey guarantee for sick

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Patients who have been sent to the mainland on doctors orders will in future be guaranteed a return trip as CalMac has reconsidered how it deals with medical emergencies.

Under the current guidelines, doctors can write patients a note to present at the port at Brodick to ensure their passage to the mainland. However, the doctor’s note only guarantees transportation one-way, with patients then expected to organise their own transport back to Arran.

This procedure has been criticised by many islanders, who’ve highlighted how attending medical emergencies can leave residents stranded on the mainland.

This concern had previously been raised at the island’s Patient User Support Group, however, CalMac had previously said that no changes would be made to the current procedure.

West of Scotland MSP Jamie Greene wrote to CalMac’s chief executive officer Duncan Mackison last month to urge them to reconsider their position on this matter. In his letter, Mr Greene highlighted that those attending to medical emergencies at Crosshouse Hospital should ‘always be able to get back to the island when required’.

As a result the ferry operator has now announced that a new protocol is being agreed and will be ready to implement at the end of September.

Under the new system, islanders will be transported as foot passengers and a taxi will be arranged to take them to the hospital. This will cover transport in both directions meaning that patients will be guaranteed a space on the ferry.

Mr. Greene praised the changes made and highlighted the importance of ensuring islanders’ passage home. Mr Greene said: ‘I’m encouraged to see that CalMac has changed its medical emergency protocol to ensure that islanders are guaranteed travel back home. Especially after attending to a medical emergency, being stranded on the mainland is the last thing that people need.

‘However, part of the reason this issue has been prominent is because there is a lack of space on our ferries. Ardrossan-Brodick is one of the busiest ferry routes in Scotland and after being promised new vessels from the government, our island communities are still being let down.’

Mr Mackison told the MSP: ‘Following representations to ministers from across the network on the issue a protocal is currently being agreed between Transport Scotland and CalMac to help island residents with urgent medial needs travel when needed.

‘We expect the protocol to be ready by the of September and full communications will be issued to island communities to advise of the support that will be provided by CalMac for customers’ priority medical travel,’ he added.