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Saturday, July 20, 2024

Comhairle Welcomes NHS Engagement in Air Service Discussions

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Cllr Uisdean Robertson has welcomed NHS Western Isles discussions on the Stornoway to Benbecula PSO contract.

NHS Western Isles will today hold a Special Board Meeting on the impact of the Benbecula to Stornoway PSO, which members of the public have been invited to attend.  

In March of this year Comhairle nan Eilean Siar announced the awarding of the contract for the operation of the Stornoway to Benbecula PSO to Hebridean Air Services for a period of four years.

Following the conclusion of the Comhairle’s tender process Hebridean Air Services had submitted the only bid that was within the Comhairle’s budget and met the required contract length.

Cllr Uisdean Robertson, Chair of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said:

“I welcome the move from NHS Western Isles to formally discuss the Stornoway to Benbecula PSO today.

“Over the years Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has frequently called for NHS and Transport Scotland collaboration and financial support in the operation of the Stornoway to Benbecula PSO contract.

“At present NHS Western Isles do not contribute anything financially to the service and do not therefore have a formal involvement in the tender process.

“NHS Western Isles has always stated that it has no responsibility for transport services and would work around services which are available.

“The Comhairle welcomes any change of heart from NHS as to planning and, presumably, supporting the PSO contract.

“The Stornoway to Benbecula PSO is a lifeline service and the Comhairle’s priority is to continue its operation for as long as budgets allow and there is an operator who is willing and able to run it.

“The awarding of a four-year contract to Hebridean Air Services has taken away the annual worry that this much needed service will be discontinued.

“Comhairle nan Eilean Siar would welcome any financial support from NHS Western Isles or Scottish Government which would safeguard the future of the service and open the door to potential service improvements, including improved accessibility, frequency, and the opportunity to reinstate the Barra leg of the PSO.

“I look forward to further discussions with NHS Western Isles on this matter as well as the wider challenges faced by the people of Uist and Barra in accessing adequate health care.

“Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is continuing to take reasonable steps to ensure that the current air service works for service users.

“This includes continued engagement with Loganair, HIAL and Hebridean Air Services to encourage improved connections between inter-island flights and flights to the mainland.”

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