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Review of criteria to fund patient escorts welcomed; HEALTHCARE Criticism after spiralling number of refusals by health board.

Aprobe is to be carried out into a crackdown on the numbers of NHS-funded escorts accompanying patients from the Outer Hebrides to mainland hospitals.

Those affected include people escorting cancer patients.

The local MSP and patient groups say the new scheme, where the health board decides instead of GPs, is being enforced restrictively and causing too much upset.

NHS Western Isles patient travel has cost about PS31 million in a decade.

Now Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan and patient groups have welcomed the news that a working group will review the system that approves escort funding.

While there were no changes made to the criteria for approval or to the patient travel policy, it appeared to patient groups that the rules were being enforced far more strictly, leading to more people having their applications for an escort refused.

Patient advocacy groups, led by the Western Isles Cancer Care Initiative (WICCI), have pushing for a more patient-centred form of approval for escorts.

And now, the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Jeane Freeman, has ordered NHS Western Isles to convene a working group as a matter of priority to review the process.

"This is a really important step forward and I am grateful for the Cabinet Secretary's intervention," said Dr Allan.

"Far too many islanders have been travelling to the mainland to receive a diagnosis for cancer, or another condition with life-changing implications, with no emotional support from a friend or loved one.

"There has been a lack of dialogue with patient advocacy groups.

"I look forward to seeing what comes out of the working group and I hope we will see a more patient-centred policy going forward."

WICCI's Helen Sandison added: "WICCI very much welcomes the intervention by Ms Freeman on the issue of patient escort travel.

"For many months now we have heard at firsthand of several patients struggling to either obtain escort permission and having to cope financially when a request is refused; or to appeal a decision at a time when they could well do without the stress and upset."

Before the changes about 44% of patients from the Outer Hebrides who needed to travel were accompanied by a funded escort - with some Western Isles GP practices authorising escorts for 50%.

The health board says even a small percentage of savings in cases where escorts are not required could see "significant amounts of money" reinvested in patient care.

It acknowledged at the time that a new system being introduced will be "disappointing" for some who will not be allowed a paid-for companion in future.

The new method for approving requests was introduced to ensure that an equitable system was delivered across the Western Isles, the health board claimed.

"No emotional support from a friend or loved one"


INVESTIGATION: Cabinet minister Jeane Freeman ordered the review following complaints from Western Isles patient advocates

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Publication:The Press and Journal (Aberdeen,Scotland)
Date:May 23, 2019
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