CalMac has announced plans to help islanders get to urgent medical appointments.

The West coast ferry operator said even if the car deck is full, they will arrange travel as a foot passenger with a return taxi journey to the appointment.

If customers find themselves having to travel for an urgent medical appointment with less than seven days’ notice and are unable to book a vehicle, CalMac Customer Contact Centre will support them to ensure they can reach their NHS destination.

In this event CalMac said it will arrange travel as a foot passenger with a return taxi journey to their appointment.

CalMac’s Managing Director, Robbie Drummond, said: "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."

The announcement follows Scotland's busiest ferry crossing cancelling sailings for safety reasons in a move that could lead to six weeks of disruption over a busy school holiday period.

Fifteen sailings between Brodick and Ardrossan have been cancelled since Sunday and todays first sailings have also been dropped because of a fault with the ferry’s mooring equipment and sever weather.

CalMac said the issue is with the mooring winch gearbox which means the vessel is “unable to safely berth during periods of adverse weather”. Repairs are expected to take six weeks.

On top of that, a fault with both mezzanine decks, means the 1,000 passenger and 110 car capacity of the vessel will be cut until repairs can be carried out.

CalMac’s director of operations, Robert Morrison said: “An issue with the MV Caledonian isles mooring gearbox is likely to restrict her ability to berth in certain weather conditions which will lead to disruption while we source the required spare parts.

“We apologise to passengers for any inconvenience this may cause.”

Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands Paul Wheelhouse said the Scottish Government want ferry networks to provide the best possible service to their communities and are "well aware of some of the challenges they face".

He said: "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.

"The move complements our recent investment in the pro-active maintenance and resilience of the fleet. The Scottish Government remains committed to longer term improvements through continuing to invest in new vessels and ferry infrastructure."