§ 23. Sir D. Robertson
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware that an almost totally blind woman from 209 Castletown, Caithness, has been sent to the Royal Infirmary, Inverness, for an operation and treatment on two occasions, and subsequently to Golspie, Sutherland, for out-patient treatment, without transport being provided for her; if he is aware that Castletown is six miles from the nearest railway station and journeys have to be made from the stations to the hospitals; and if he will take steps to authorise transport by road from door to door for incapacitated persons, free of cost to the patient.
§ Mr. Noble
In general, where a patient's doctor considers that ambulance facilities are required, the whole cost is met by the Scottish ambulance service. Patients travel by road or rail, whichever is the more suitable. In this case, the medical advice was that the patient did not need ambulance facilities on the earlier journeys. For her last visit to Golspie they were required and a rail journey with an escort and ambulances to link with the train at each end was arranged.
The patient's husband was, however, wrongly informed that he would have to pay the rail fare and he made other arrangements. In the circumstances, I am prepared to reimburse him the amount of the rail fare.
§ Sir D. Robertson
Is the Secretary of State aware that the information he has given to the House is completely at variance with the facts given to me, which I have confirmed in two trunk calls to Castletown in recent days? Is he aware that there is no public transport service from Castletown to connect with a train from Thurso to take the patient to Inverness? Is it not wrong that a woman in the state in which this lady is should be treated in this way? In addition to being partially blind, she is sick and weighs only 5 or 6 stone. This kind of thing will not do. It is making a masquerade of the National Health Service?
§ Mr. Noble
The hon. Gentleman may well have information which I have not got. On the question of the ambulance services, often the best thing is to have a car to a station for the rail journey and an ambulance from the railhead to the hospital. This is often easier when long rail journeys are concerned, and this we try to do. I am sorry for the mistake about the rail fare.