NHS Highland accused of ‘breaching human rights’

Dialysis patients Kathleen Sharp, left, and Mary MacKay. Picture: Moira Kerr
Dialysis patients Kathleen Sharp, left, and Mary MacKay. Picture: Moira Kerr
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A health board is being accused of breaching the human rights of two patients who have had to travel almost 700 miles a week for months to access dialysis treatment.

The women, who both live in Campbeltown, have to travel to Vale of Leven Hospital in ­Alexandria as NHS Highland provides no dialysis machines.

Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, Kathleen Sharp, 64, and Mary MacKay, 73, make the six-hour, 230-mile return trip to hospital. A third dialysis patient from the isle of Gigha clocks up almost 600 miles a week and is collected in a separate car to tie in with ferry times.

Mrs Sharp said: “You hear everybody going on about human rights, but they are not bothered about our human rights one bit.

“We have no life because we are up early to leave at 8:30am. When we get there, we are four hours on the machine and we don’t get back until 8pm.

“You are absolutely shattered after the journey, so you have to go to your bed. Then, on your days off [from dialysis], you have to go to bed early at night because you have to get up early to go again the next day.”

She added: “When you are on dialysis, you are only supposed to travel 40 minutes. It’s a shambles. I have been doing this a year and eight months.”

She said the route to the Vale of Leven, in cars funded by the NHS, is often hit by bad weather which delays their dialysis.

Mrs MacKay, who has been making the trip for five months, said: “The first time I went, we had to divert to Dalmally and the journey took us four hours.

“It’s hellish. I come home, get a cup of tea and then I have to go to my bed. The next day, you are recovering and then it’s time to go back. It’s horrendous really.”

The women meet dialysis patients from Glasgow when they are at the hospital. Mrs Sharp said: “The people in Glasgow are going home at 12:30pm because they get dialysis in the morning. They will have their lunch, go shopping, see their family when we are doing our long journey.”

Councillor Donald Kelly, chairman of the newly formed Kidney Support Group in Campbeltown, which is spearheading the campaign for change to the system, said: “Our aim is to increase the pressure on NHS Highland to establish a facility at Campbeltown Hospital.

“Space is available and the £110,000 estimated costs of establishing and running a unit are already being spent taxi-ing people to and from the Vale of Leven.”

An NHS Highland spokesman said: “We are currently going through a process of considering what alternatives are available and looking at the current and projected demand for a local dialysis service, as well as considering the cost and service implications that would arise if a unit was provided locally.”

Health Secretary Alex Neil said: “I have already outlined my concern that patients from Argyll and Bute have to make extremely long journeys up to three times a week for dialysis treatment.

“I have also sought assurances that the board will look again at the case for a low-maintenance dialysis unit in Argyll and Bute as quickly as possible.”