NHS Scotland: Ex-health worker told she can try Europe for treatment

A former health worker who was told she could travel to Europe for NHS treatment to avoid lengthy waits in Scotland has branded the system 'mad.'

Health Secretary Shona Robison's officials advised the European trip.

Elaine Hanby, 48, from Nairn, was diagnosed with a cataract two years ago but was told she faces a year-long wait for treatment, despite a Government target of 18 weeks.

Mrs Hanby’s case was raised by Labour leader Kezia Dugdale at Holyrood today who slammed the “3,000 mile round trip” to Europe for treatment. Mrs Hanby had written to health secretary Shona Robison seeking information about the prospect of treatment on the continent, but ridiculed the system which prevented her from being treated here.

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

“I’m mobile. I can travel to hospital in Edinburgh or Glasgow or even in England. In Chester, where I used to live, the wait is 44 days. I was trying to highlight the fact that I could take £925 out of the NHS for the treatment (in Europe) instead of using the money in the UK which is mad.”

Mrs Hanby had initially sought treatment with NHS Highland when she was told of the prospect of a year-long wait. The mother of two, who is chairwoman of the Royal Navy and Royal Marine Widows Association, worked for the health service 20 years ago when she first became aware of the possibility of seeking treatment in Europe. She wrote to health secretary Shona Robison about this and to draw attention to her inability to seek treatment UK-wide.

Ms Dugdale attacked Nicola Sturgeon over the issue at First Mnisters Questions in Holyrood today.

“The waiting time for Elaine Hanby’s cataract operation is shocking,” Ms Dugdale said.

“When the government target is 12 weeks for a consultation, a wait of 12 months is completely unacceptable.

“And it is astounding that Mrs Hanby is being forced to consider going to Europe for treatment because she cannot get seen in her local hospital in Inverness.

“Labour MSPs are dealing with cases from Caithness to Paisley, from Dumbarton to Aberdeen. We shouldn’t have to bring every case to parliament for something to happen.”

Ms Sturgeon said there is “more work to be done” on the NHS, but waiting times are lower today than when the SNP took office.

“We are committed to further increasing investment but also crucially carrying out the reforms in our NHS to make sure the NHS can cope with the pressures on it.”

The First Minister said the Government is determined to work with the NHS to drive down waiting times.

The SNP leader said Labour had not committed as much spending on the NHS as labour at the election last year.