Numerous postal workers based on Islay have resigned in recent months over their working conditions, leaving just three employees struggling to cover the service for both islands.
One former postman said that he left the company in August as it was “the worst I have worked for”.
The resignations have meant locals are facing waits of up to three weeks for letters and parcels to arrive – including hospital appointments and vital medication.
As a temporary solution to th e delays, residents are now traveling to the island’s sorting office in Port Ellen to collect their own post.
An islander said that the delays caused him to completely miss a hospital appointment for cancer treatment – and resulted in a £135 NHS cost as he was recorded as a no-show.
Due to the remote location of the islands, residents often have to travel to the mainland to attend hospital appointments, requiring notice to do so.
Hughie Currie said: “I have cancer and missed a hospital appointment because I got the letter the day after the appointment.
“[It’s had a] knock-on effect to health – probably not only me, but others as well, and it’s costing the NHS £135 for each no-show.”
Dorothy MacArthur, who lives in the village of Portnahaven – just short of 26 miles from the sorting office – said people are becoming “distressed”, highlighting that many simply do not have the option to make the journey to collect their post.
She also pointed out that islanders are having to make the often lengthy journey simply “on the off-chance that you have mail” waiting at the office.
“We can’t afford the time and the distance and the petrol when it’s really not our problem,” she said
“[There’s] elderly people that don’t have a car. They’re getting a bus from Portnahaven to Bowmore, maybe changing [bus] and then they get round there – the weather’s been not that great.
“[Then] they’re getting another bus at Port Ellen and back again into Bowmore. Some of these people can’t walk up the high street, never mind go out.”
Another resident, Gill Chasemore, said the situation has become “intolerable” and called on management at Royal Mail to be held accountable.
She said “Our posties, who were an essential service during lockdown – not just delivering post, but checking on vulnerable people in the community, putting themselves at risk – have been treated badly and this has caused mass resignations.
“The situation now is that people are expected to collect their mail in person from the Port Ellen office.
“How, if you are elderly, vulnerable, have health conditions or are disabled are you able to do this? How are you able to do this if you have no transport?”
A Royal Mail spokesman said: “We do not operate a policy of requiring customers to collect their own mail on Islay.
“Every item of mail is important to Royal Mail. We are very sorry for any recent delays that our customers may have experienced. We have been affected by some resourcing issues locally, which we are in the process of addressing.”