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Coronavirus: Action to update Covid guidelines to help island patients get mainland treatment

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon responded to concerns over the proposed legislation during FMQs.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon responded to concerns over the proposed legislation during FMQs.

Some island patients have been prevented from getting treatment because of Covid quarantine rules for those who are shielding, Orkney MSP Liam McArthur has claimed.

At First Minister’s Questions, Mr McArthur called on Nicola Sturgeon to update guidance so that those who have to travel by ferry to a mainland hospital can get treated more quickly.

The Orkney MSP pointed out that shielding patients were unable to use public transport ahead of operations.

He said: “Patients from Orkney and Shetland who need specialist treatment in hospitals on the Scottish mainland have to take a ferry or plane to get there. Therefore, the current two-week quarantine period prior to an operation effectively prevents isles patients from getting the treatment that they need.”

Mr McArthur called for guidance to be upgraded urgently to ensure that island patients receive the same treatment as elsewhere.

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.”

Liam McArthur, Orkney MSP

Ms Sturgeon said she would get Health Secretary Jeane Freeman to write to the Orkney MSP to update him on their plans to change the guidance so that patients can make better arrangements.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

The first minister said: “I am aware of the issue, and I know that it has had the health secretary’s attention. We are finalising the guidance to make sure that appropriate arrangements are put in place that do not make it more difficult for patients from the islands to get the treatment that they need.

“I will ask the health secretary to correspond with the member about the timescale for, and detail of, that guidance, which we hope to publish fairly soon. We will keep the member updated.”

Liam McArthur MSP.

After the Holyrood session ended, Mr McArthur said: “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.”

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