NHS Western Isles has reassured patients needing to travel for essential hospital appointments on the mainland that every effort is being made to ensure they can attend appointments as planned, after airport operator Hial closes all their airports on Sunday.
Hial is closing its airports to scheduled and routine air traffic in response to the strict measures announced by the UK and Scottish Governments this week.
As a lifeline service provider for local communities, Hial has worked with Transport Scotland and Loganair to agree a skeleton schedule that will ensure that airports continue to provide essential services, including NHS passenger transfer and transport for essential key workers, such as visiting consultants.
All other services will cease from March 30 until further notice.
A limited timetable will run for Glasgow-Benbecula, Glasgow-Stornoway and Stornoway-Benbecula.
Royal Mail charter flights to the islands will continue.
In terms of travel by ferry, CalMac has introduced an ‘Essential Lifeline Timetable’ as a result of the ongoing pandemic.
The new reduced timetable will run for an initial three-week period and will be subject to continual review in what is a rapidly changing environment.
Essential travel will continue, and this includes patients travelling to hospital on the mainland for appointments.
With the suspension of the flight to Inverness, the ferry option will be vital for patients receiving essential treatment or attending urgent appointments in Raigmore Hospital in particular.
An NHS WI spokeswoman said: “We also recognise some of these changes will be extremely disruptive and upsetting for our patients, in particular where ferry/taxi travel is the only option available for appointments in Inverness, but we would like to assure patients that we will endeavour to assist them in any way that we can at this very difficult time.
“Contact your local patient travel office if you have any questions or concerns.”