Travel for off-island health appointments is taking place with more frequency again, following the lockdown period earlier this year - but time away and accommodation choices are being striclty limited to reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission.

At the current time, COVID-19 Protection Levels are being applied to all areas in Scotland, and it is possible that patients may be travelling to an area with a higher level of restriction, due to the prevalence of COVID-19 in that area. 

Protection Levels are regularly reviewed and changed, so patients should make themselves aware of the Protection Level in the area they are visiting (see https://www.gov.scot/check-local-covid-level/)  and ensure that they comply with the restrictions in that area whilst they are there.

If in doubt, the NHS Western Isles COVID Response Team can provide details of specific restrictions (01851 601151) or your local Patient Travel Department can provide details.

Under the majority of Protection Levels, visits to other households are not currently permitted.

Visits to households in areas of higher restriction pose an additional risk. 

NHS Western Isles Patient Travel Team will book travel to ensure the earliest practical return to the Western Isles, to avoid unnecessary time off-island. This means that patients must return to the Western Isles as early as is practically possible for outpatient/day appointments. Overnight stays will only be agreed and funded if unavoidable due to travel timetables. 

NHS Western Isles will continue to provide funding towards a hotel or bed and breakfast as per normal Patient Travel guidance. Patients are asked not to stay with friends/relatives whilst on the mainland, and for this reason, no payment or reimbursement will be made to patients for this purpose until further notice.

Open returns will only be permissible for inpatients where a return date is yet unknown.

We are aware that a number of people have not travelled off island for some time as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and we recognise that some patients may have concerns about travelling, in particular if the area they are travelling to is at a higher COVID-19 Protection Level than is applied in the Western Isles.

NHS Western Isles would reassure patients that they are permitted to travel to attend a medical appointment, but we would remind everyone of some of the safety measures they should be taking whilst travelling.

  • F – Face coverings. These should be used in health facilities, shops and on public transport (buses, ferries, planes, trains and taxis)
  • A – Avoid crowded places.
  • C – Clean your hands and hard surfaces frequently.
  • T – Two metres – observe physical distancing.
  • S – Self-isolate and book a test if you are suffering from COVID-19 symptoms, no matter how mild.

Patients should ensure that they wear their face mask/face covering at all times whilst travelling (with the exception of when they are eating/drinking, or if they are exempt). Please ensure that you wash your hands/hand sanitise effectively before putting your face covering/face mask on and before removing it.

As far as possible, patients should remain at least two metres away from others whilst travelling, avoid congregating with others, and avoid car sharing with anyone from outwith their household.

When using public transport patients should also hand sanitise regularly and practice effective respiratory hygiene measures (cough or sneeze into your elbow or into a tissue and dispose of the tissue in a bin).

All NHS hospitals and healthcare premises in Scotland and the UK have specific infection prevention and control measures in place to protect all patients and staff.

Generally, patients will be required hand santitise and wear a face mask or face covering when they enter healthcare premises. they will specifically be required to wear a face mask in clinical areas.

Where at all possible, patients should attend appointments alone, unless they require assistance. Patients are also asked to attend their appointment on time (please do not arrive too early or late). Patients will be required to keep a two metre distance from others whilst in healthcare premises, with the exception of when they are receiving direct clinical care.