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Fuel price and £400 hotel rooms block rural access to Highland healthcare, MSP warns

Raigmore Hospital, Inverness
Raigmore Hospital, Inverness

Hospital patients in the Highlands are finding it “almost impossible” to attend some appointments amid claims of rising fuel costs and £400 a night hotel prices.

Fears about the massive costs are being raised at Holyrood where campaigners want action on rural access to health care services.

Highlands MSP Rhoda Grant is among those hoping the NHS and Scottish Government will address concerns about travel and accommodation for those going to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness for treatment.

She highlighted criticism of public transport, rising fuel prices and astronomically high accommodation prices, which can lead to some being unable to attend their appointments.

‘This is a real issue’

Ms Grant said living in the Highlands is not a lifestyle choice where people should accept they will be far away from necessary healthcare.

She said: “This is a real issue for my constituents who have to travel huge distances, and there is a cost involved.

“If you don’t have a car, public transport is pretty poor.

Rhoda Grant MSP

“There is the Highlands and Islands Travel Scheme but people are telling me the cost of fuel and running a car is making it almost impossible to attend healthcare appointments.

“And then there are additional issues when it is overnight.

“If you live outside of Inverness, especially in the height of summer, you can’t get a room for under £400.

“That is a huge amount of money for anyone, far less someone on a budget.”

Kyle Court Patient Lodge at Raigmore Hospital gives patients somewhere to stay when travelling to an appointment.

But Ms Grant says this needs to be expanded so more people, including relatives, can benefit.

Call to get rural healthcare closer

Ms Grant is also calling on the government to do more to bring healthcare closer to where people live.

She made the plea after appearing at Holyrood’s public petitions committee on Wednesday, where two separate petitions calling for better rural healthcare in Scotland were heard.

Afterwards she said: “The Scottish Government needs to look at all of this and get rural healthcare closer to people.

“Healthcare needs to be as local as possible – you are not going to have a brain surgeon in every rural general hospital, but some things like obstetricians and paediatricians should be.

“There is a shortage of staff too so there also needs to be more training.”

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said they recognise some patients in the Highlands will have to travel for their treatment.

They added: “Should any patient need to travel for treatment, we expect Scottish NHS boards to have appropriate processes in place to enable this access.

“Guidance has been issued to boards to ensure that services are always provided in the best interests of the patient.

“The Highlands and Islands Patient Travel Scheme is in place to provide financial assistance with travel costs to any patient more than 30 miles away from the hospital they are attending.”

NHS Highland was also approached for comment.

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