South Scotland

Thousands of patients travel for medical treatment

hospital doctor and patient Image copyright Thinkstock

Thousands of patients from the south of Scotland have to travel to another part of the country for medical treatment.

New figures have revealed that more than 6,300 people in the Borders and Dumfries and Galloway were treated outwith the region in 2014.

MSP Jim Hume, who obtained the figures through a parliamentary question, said the figures were "frankly shocking".

The Scottish government said there were "very good reasons" for treating people outside their board area.

Across Scotland more than 100,000 people travelled to another area to receive treatment in 2014, including to the Golden Jubilee Hospital in Clydebank.

It is the only hospital in Scotland to carry out heart transplants and it is home to the busiest lung surgery unit in the UK.

Patients treated outside "home" health board area
Health board of residence 2012 2013 2014
NHS Borders 3,230 3,251 3,509
NHS Dumfries and Galloway 2,566 2,530 2,860
NHS Scotland 95,499 95,989 100,433

Mr Hume said: "It's frankly shocking that thousands of patients across South Scotland were referred for hospital treatment outwith their area last year.

"There are a number of reasons why patients may be referred to other parts of Scotland for treatment.

"But in general, patients should be able to attend hospital appointments as close to their homes as possible - the difficulty of travelling further afield is not only inconvenient but can also aggravate the very health conditions they are being referred for."

He called on the Scottish government to "act now" to ensure key services are provided at local hospitals.

However Health Secretary Shona Robison said specialist care was provided in the most appropriate environment - regardless of board boundaries.

She added: "In many cases it is easier for a patient to go to a hospital in a neighbouring board area, because it is nearer to their home.

"There are many other patients who start their care in their own area and are then referred to a regional centre for specialist treatment. For example, the Golden Jubilee Hospital in Clydebank, which is a world-class national centre providing treatments such as heart transplants and cardiac bypass surgery."

She said that last month the government announced a £200m investment to create six new elective treatment centres "throughout Scotland" which would deliver about 22,000 more procedures annually by 2025.

None are planned for the south of Scotland.

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