For the fifth year in a row the number of patients travelling outwith Lanarkshire for hospital treatment was a quarter of the Scottish total.
Figures released to the Liberal Democrats by Health Minister Shona Robison show Lanarkshire sent over 28,000 patients elsewhere, NHS Highland was second with just 12,000.
Lib Dem candidate for the Central Scotland list Paul McGarry said: “I am shocked to see 28,436 Lanarkshire residents had to travel outwith the county to receive treatment.
“There are of course a number of good reasons why patients may be referred to other parts of Scotland for treatment, it does appear however that for Lanarkshire patients this is being considered the norm.”
Motherwell and Wishaw MSP John Pentland was similarly stunned by the figures.
He said: “With Lanarkshire being one of the larger areas, the obvious questions are why more patients can’t get treatment locally; and why the number who have to travel is double the Scottish average.
“The public deserve full and frank answers to those questions, and I will be looking for the Cabinet Secretary and NHS Lanarkshire to provide proper responses.”
NHS Lanarkshire director of access Judith Park claims geography often makes it more convenient for patients to be treated by other health boards.
She said: “Traditionally, patients who live on the outskirts of Lanarkshire, for example Harthill, Kilsyth and Rutherglen, have received treatment in neighbouring health board hospitals, in Glasgow and Lothian, due to their proximity.
“In addition, there can be circumstances where the speciality required is not available in Lanarkshire and patients will be referred to adjacent NHS health boards.”