AN ONLINE petition urging NHS Shetland to reconsider its decision to send patients to Aberdeen on an overnight ferry rather than by plane is rapidly gaining support.
Since last night (Wednesday) the Keep Shetland NHS patients flying petition has attracted more than 400 signatures.
Set up by Shetland south mainland resident Hugh Harrop, the petition reflects the massive outcry raised in the islands after the local NHS board decided on Tuesday to scrap its policy of flying patients who are in need of medical treatment.
The move is estimated to save the health board around £1 million from its £2.7 million patient travel budget.
Exceptions will be made for patients including children, pregnant women in their third trimester and those being treated for cancer, along with those travelling farther afield than Aberdeen for appointments.
People who want to continue to fly can still do so but if they want some of the cost reimbursed by NHS Shetland they will have to make a booking without applying the air discount scheme.
Many people who have to travel to the mainland for medical appointments have reacted angrily, as have those who don't travel well on the overnight ferry in the middle of winter.
Concerns have also been raised that appointments will be missed during periods of bad weather and therefore incur additional costs.
Employers may also not look favourably at the proposal should employees take two days off for what is often not more than a 15 minute appointment at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.
Harrop said Tuesday's decision by NHS Shetland was "one of the most poorly executed decisions" he has ever seen, and added that all the petition does is "politely" request that the health board reconsiders.
"This is just wrong," he said, "the health board need to go out fighting and lobby the Scottish Government.
"This is an essential service and it needs to be protected."