​Elderly cancer patient in seven-hour airport ordeal

​The family of an elderly cancer patient have hit out at the current practice of sending islanders to mainland hospitals for routine treatments, after the 77-year-old was left waiting at Glasgow airport for over seven hours for a connection back home.
The health board said that some cancer treatments have to be carried out on the mainland.The health board said that some cancer treatments have to be carried out on the mainland.
The health board said that some cancer treatments have to be carried out on the mainland.

​Lynda Macdonald, who accompanied her mother for the appointment at the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre last Friday, called for a change of approach by NHS Western Isles.

In a statement to the Gazette, the health board said that the situation, in particular with reference to cancer treatments, was complex and certain treatments had to be carried out at specialist centres.

Lynda said they left home at 7.30am for an appointment at 10.30am. The treatment took less than an hour and they were back at the airport for midday, with the flight not due till 6pm. It left at 7.20pm.

She said that they were also waiting for the Ambulift for 20 minutes, “freezing, while the jet re-fuelled”.

“I am disgusted that the people of the Western Isles are having to make this journey every three weeks. It is criminal, not to mention the financial cost to the NHS Western Isles,” she said.

“My mother’s treatment should and could be done at home. It would cost far less to employ more nurses and open some of the wards currently closed in the Western Isles Hospital instead of feeble excuses from those in executive positions.

“When we asked in Glasgow about the treatment being done at home we were just told they weren’t sure. When we have asked here it is because they are overwhelmed. We can’t seem to get any direct answers. But it is ridiculous for anyone to be travelling for treatment that takes 40 minutes to run through an infusion when our hospital is supposed to be a modern hospital.”

Just last week, the Gazette reported that the board is facing a significant increase in costs for sending patients to the mainland, a situation that’s been exacerbated recently with continual travel disruption, both for air services and ferries.

An NHS Western Isles spokesperson said: “We always regret when patients and relatives have an experience of the NHS that does not meet their expectations or that they are dissatisfied with, and we are keen to follow up with patients about experiences that we could learn from and improve.

“Our priority is always to ensure person-centred, safe and effective patient care and treatment and this is why we always discuss treatment options with our cancer patients. Services that can safely be delivered here in the Western Isles will, where possible, be delivered on-island.”

They said chemotherapy services “are heavily regulated” and the decision on where treatment will be delivered is made by a consultant oncologist. “Certain types of chemotherapy strictly require to be administered in a mainland centre and this is unavoidable”, they said. “This is either due to complexity or toxicity of medicines. This will require patients to attend the mainland on a regular basis, and we and our mainland partners do all we can to support this.”

The Beatson is Scotland’s largest cancer centre and provides care to 60 per cent of Scotland. “This level of services for certain cancer patients cannot be provided by smaller health boards,” said the spokesperson.

“It is highly regrettable when treatment is completed that does not coincide well with the transport to return home. Clearly NHS Western Isles is sorry for any situation where patients encounter waits in particular when they are poorly.”

They also denied the accusation of ward closures.

“NHS Western Isles has changed the use of some areas since the hospital opened,” they said. “These were repurposed for operational reasons. No wards are closed.”