Western Isles health board is changing the way assesses the need for an escort to
accompany a patients for mainland hospital travel.
The health authority says there is no alteration to the criteria for approving a
However, the decision will now be made by the NHS Western Isles medical director,
Angus McKellar, with advice from GPs, rather than by individual surgeries.
Dr McKellar said the changes will mean that those “who do not meet the criteria will
not receive NHS funding for an escort.”
He said: “We understand and acknowledge that in some cases, this will be disappointing.
However, there is a limited budget for patient travel, which is under significant
pressure, and we must ensure that the money available is spent appropriately.”
Dr McKellar said until now, GP practices made the decision to approve or reject funding
for patient escorts with a “significant variation” between surgeries.
Under the new process GPs will provide clinical information regarding escort requests
and the decision as to whether or not a funded escort is approved is made via Dr
The new system has been piloted in Langabhat and Broadbay practices and initial feedback
is said to be “positive.”
The system will be rolled out to the three remaining GP practices in Lewis and Harris
It is intended to implement the new process in the Uists and Barra in July.
“It is important to stress that, where escorts are clinically required, we will continue
to fund them in line with our policy,” said Dr McKellar.
NHS Western Isles patient travel cost about £31 million over the last 10 years.
Small percentage savings where escorts are not required could result in “significant
amounts of money being reinvested back into patient care,” said the board.