Elderly patients told to pay for lifts to hospital

Sarah Borthwick, 81, of Kintyre was asked for 60 for transport to Oban hospital. Picture: Moira Kerr
Sarah Borthwick, 81, of Kintyre was asked for 60 for transport to Oban hospital. Picture: Moira Kerr
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Elderly patients are being asked to pay two-thirds of their state pension upfront for transport to hospital appointments in Glasgow.

Residents of Kintyre are asked for £80 if they need to go to a Glasgow appointment and £60 to travel to Lorn and Islands Hospital in Oban, although the state pension is only £113.75.

The charges are being applied when a patient has been assessed, via a telephone booking system, as not qualifying for NHS transport.

With no suitably timed public transport system available to get people to the hospitals and back the same day, patients with no other means of travel are told to use Red Cross transport.

Although all but £10 of the cash can be claimed back from them by the patient in a month’s time, they have to hand over the cash upfront to the Red Cross driver.

Argyll Liberal Democrat MP Alan Reid said: “There needs to be a review of the whole system and questions asked as to why the NHS are forcing elderly patients to travel these very long distances.”

Campbeltown councillor Donald Kelly said: “It’s a scandal. I think it’s totally unacceptable to be charging people that amount of money in this day and age, where a lot of elderly people will be living on the breadline. This could put them into dire straits – it needs to be looked at as soon as possible.”

Steve Byrne, of Campbeltown Community Council, commented: “The whole thing is wrong, somebody from Carradale was told they had to pay £80 upfront for transport to a hospital in Glasgow.

“It’s two-thirds of a weekly pension. If a person is earning £600 a week then this is like them having to pay £400.”

Sarah Borthwick, 81, of Stewarton, near Campbeltown, has made a five-hour return NHS journey every three weeks for the past six months to collect chemotherapy tablets.

She said: “I don’t think people can believe it, that I have to go all the way up to Oban just to get tablets but I do. I go up there to get two packets of tablets, you have your weight taken and your blood pressure taken, but that’s it.”

Mrs Borthwick, who was put on the tablets as a precaution after a successful bowel operation, said: “I phoned to book the transport one day and they said, ‘You don’t qualify for this transport any more but I will give you another number if you need a lift’. I phoned my cancer nurse and she said it was ridiculous.

“She phoned and sorted it, but they told her the other transport was the Red Cross where you pay £60 and claim it back.”

Betty Munro, 79, of Campbeltown, had to make the same journey every three weeks last year for tablets, following an operation for colon cancer.

Dr McNicoll said weight and blood pressure could be taken locally and he saw no reason why the chemotherapy tablets could not be transported from Oban for patients to collect them from a doctor in Campbeltown.

An NHS Highland spokesman said: “We are aware that the situation is not ideal and we are currently looking into this issue to see if we can find a solution.”

Cancer patients were asked to travel to Oban for a regular assessment of their condition.