An Arran resident who experienced serious health problems admits she is ‘too frightened’ to leave the island to access shared NHS services on the mainland over the uncertainty of the ferries.

Linda Clark has lived on Arran with her husband, whose family have lived on the island for centuries, for 21 years.

She found a lump in her breast in 2016, and has undergone treatment for cancer at Crosshouse. She now admits after nearly two years of Covid restrictions and the ongoing issues with CalMac cancellations, she is just ‘too frightened’ to leave the island.

She explained to the Herald: The healthcare that you get on Arran, same as the education, is second to none.

“You get the best of everything. When it comes to having to go to the mainland, for a special procedure or surgery or anything like that, the hospital, Crosshouse, is fine – but the worry is, you can’t always get across. And if you get across, you can’t always get back.

She continued: “I found a lump in my breast in December 2016. Went to see my doctor, he examined me and he said ‘I don’t like the look of this, I need to refer you.”

Tied up with vital hospital appointments for specialist services, Linda was at the whim of weather: The appointment came through for the January. The day I was meant to go across, the ferry wasn’t sailing so I had to cancel the appointment. I got another appointment for February, and the ferry wasn’t sailing again.

“So I contacted the hospital, I said, look, its not because I am not coming, I just can’t get across.

“They said we understand but because you have missed two appointments, we have to put you at the end of the list.

“But I said, I have a lump in my breast. I never missed them by choice. I phoned the doctors again, and he said listen this is rubbish, leave it with me. He called me back and got me in for March.

“This time I got there, only the lump that I had in my breast that was a size of a marble, was now the size of a ping-pong ball. And it turned out to be stage three, that had travelled into my lymph nodes.

“So, I had the treatment done. And after the first chemo, I developed some complications, and was airlifted across. I had that treated, came back, had the same problem, was airlifted again – this time in the middle of the night – so they couldn’t do any more chemo.

“So it came to the point where I had to get radiotherapy, then 13 months of injections, during that whole time, I was worried sick if I would be able to get back.

“My husband is 85. And he’s not good on his legs. So if I go over there and can’t get back, it is a big big worry.”

Linda has not left the island since the coronavirus restrictions were put in place.

She said: “I’d like to go across to the mainland, get a wee break, but there is just no way I would risk it. I’ve stayed put since Covid. I am too frightened to go over.

“It is a beautiful place to be trapped. If I was trapped on that side, my stress levels would be off the scale, so I just don’t go.”

Tommy Gore, Area Operations Manager (Clyde) for CalMac, said: “Our priority is to ensure people can travel, but this past year has been incredibly challenging due to Covid restrictions.

“Our staff work hard to carefully manage demand from tourists with local residents wanting to travel, as well as goods and services needing to be transported. This is why we always encourage people to book in advance.

“Poor weather conditions are the main reason why sailings are cancelled – more than 80 per cent of cancellations across the network last year were caused by this. Covid cases also account for a large number of these.”