Drones could be the answer to drug deliveries from the mainland to the Western Isles- including eventually taking cancer treatment drugs out.
NHS Western Isles is looking at drones as a ‘medium-term possibility’ for getting some types of treatments over from the mainland.
It said exploratory work into drones’ potential was “progressing well”.
But the health authority says drones wouldn’t solve the current issue over delivering chemotherapy to the islands.
A spokeswoman said:”It wouldn’t be an option at present to address the current issue with transporting chemotherapy as this is more of an urgent priority.
“The drones could potentially in the future be used for this purpose though.”
NHS Highland supplies these drugs, and due to their highly toxic nature they are transported under a strict security protocol, and not by road and ferry.
The current arrangement is with Dalcross Logistics, flying out of Inverness Airport.
But the company says it is finding it nearly impossible to transport the treatments as a profitable business, due to operational costs and the relatively small numbers of deliveries making it unsustainable.
NHS Western Isles has considered delivering the treatments by road and ferry but “this was not agreed to by NHS Highland unless there was no alternative”, according a report to the board.
NHS Western Isles said it was committed to providing as much care and treatment as it could “safely and effectively” in the isles.
A spokeswoman from NHS Western Isles said: “Local treatment with chemotherapy is extremely important for us and our community.
“We are discussing with Dalcross Logistics options to resolve the required screening of chemotherapy prior to air transportation to the Western Isles.
“We are committed to finding a workable solution and hope to meet with Dalcross representatives over the next few weeks.”
Meanwhile NHS Highland has been exploring how to use drones to deliver medical supplies to hospitals, GP surgeries and care homes across the region.
It is in partnership with Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the University of the Highlands and Islands to see if the technology could be used, and seeking a private drone operator to investigate the potential of making supply chains more efficient.
NHS Highland’s head of e-health Iain Ross said: “NHS Highland is still interested in the use of drone technology and are monitoring how this technology develops before making any commitments.”