NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Shetland hospital patients transported by ferry instead of plane

Aberdeen Royal Infirmary

Thousands of patients across Shetland will now go to Aberdeen for hospital treatment and appointments by ferry rather than plane in a money-saving move.

NHS Shetland has decided to use NorthLink as its first choice of travel in an effort to save £1m.

It will mean a journey of 12 hours by ferry instead of a one-hour flight.

NHS Shetland said flights would still be available for those with a specific clinical need.

The health board voted six to four to introduce the changes in the coming months.

NHS Shetland chief executive Ralph Roberts said: "While this decision has been difficult, it reflects the commitment of the board to take the steps necessary for balancing our budget, while maximising the proportion of that budget we spend directly on clinical care.

"If we are to protect the quality of our local services, this is very important.

"In addition, we will continue to work hard to reduce the need for patients to travel at all by offering more local services, and by alternative approaches to appointments such as video clinics."

'Best means'

However Jonathan Hinkles, Loganair's chief executive said: "Loganair is very proud of the service that we have offered over many years to the NHS, and the developments on which we've worked with airports like Aberdeen to improve the patient travel experience.

"We are firmly of the view that the one-hour air service to Aberdeen is by far the best means of travel for patients who are able to fly.

"We can only assume that NHS has fully considered the clinical and welfare aspects of patients spending two consecutive nights on the ferry between Lerwick and Aberdeen in reaching this decision."

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