A HEALTH board has been forced into a U-turn following a public outcry over a decision to charge pensioners upfront for the cost of transport to hospital appointments.

Patients in Kintyre, Argyll were being asked to dip into their pensions to pay up to £80 for the cost of being taken to hospitals.

They were forced to wait a month to reclaim all but £10 of the cost from NHS Highland for the service, which is organised by the Red Cross charity. However, the revelation last week led to a number of complaints and now NHS Highland has agreed to pay the Red Cross.

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Val Cannell, of Carradale, wrote to Health Secretary Alex Neil to complain about the unfairness of the system.

Mrs Cannell said she had to intervene when one patient, who qualified for ambulance transport, was wrongly told to pay £80 for a lift to hospital in Glasgow.

Another, Sarah Borthwick, of Stewarton, near Campbeltown, had to get her cancer nurse to intervene when wrongly asked to pay £60 for a lift to hospital in Oban.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "Managers at NHS Highland have met with the Red Cross and agreed a way of ensuring that patients do not need to pay the full charge for transport upfront."