CalMac have today (Thursday 12 March) announced a new urgent medical appointments protocol to support island residents travelling to the mainland for medical appointments at short notice.

The new arrangements promise islanders that they’ll be able to get to a medical appointment, even if the ferry they need to catch is already fully-booked for vehicles.

They’ve pledged to get patients to urgent medical appointments, even if it means travelling as a foot passenger, with CalMac paying for a taxi onwards.

CalMac’s managing director Robbie Drummond said: “First and foremost we are a lifeline service to the communities we support, but under the current terms of our contract we cannot prioritise space on sailings for local people, presenting us with challenges in certain circumstances.

“This new approach is one way we can offer some flexibilities to islanders who need to attend hospital or other urgent NHS appointments at short notice and is a direct result of concerns they have raised.

“By investing in initiatives such as this we hope to help satisfy the demands of regular customers, in certain last minute circumstances.”

Responding to today’s announcement, the Scottish Government minister for energy, connectivity and the islands, Paul Wheelhouse said: “We want our ferry networks to provide the best possible service to the communities that rely on them and we are well aware of some of the challenges they face, particularly over the busy summer months.

“Making a commitment to prioritising passengers travelling for medical appointments is something island communities have told us would really help and we asked CalMac to take forward as part of their action plan for services. It's a great example of how a relatively small change can make a big difference to the passenger experience.”

Full details of the new protocol, including how to book, are available at https://www.calmac.co.uk/urgent-medical-appointments