No NHS Priority Service

WightLink User Experience

During the summer of 2021 I discovered that Wightlink do neither provide an NHS priority service for patients needing to attend hospitals on the mainland, nor is there a dedicated NHS phone line for Islanders to make their NHS bookings. During that summer period of 2021 (although this could happen at any time) the Victoria of Wight was out of service.

Trying to book vital cancer treatment for my husband was an absolute nightmare. Because my husband required several procedures, which could only be booked one week at a time due to unpredictable biopsy result timings, it became increasingly difficult to find crossings to attend both St Mary’s Portsmouth and QA Portsmouth. One crossing to St Mary’s Portsmouth (only 10 mins from ferry port) was transferred to Lymington! It was clear that Wightlink were not aware that this was an NHS booking. I drove to Fishbourne some days before the crossing to enquire if Wightlink would change it for me, fortunately they did. As Paul’s cancer procedures progressed I had to wait one hour each time I called, (a) because they do not have a dedicated NHS line, (b) the Wightlinlk switchboard was extremely busy due to the Victoria of Wight out of service impact. One date I was offered was the day before Paul’s procedure at QA hospital, as they had no vacancies on the day I requested on the car ferry. (He was unable to travel on the CAT due to the after effects of surgery and general anaesthetics, resulting in pain and distress during the recovery period).

I wrote immediately to Keith Greenfield regarding this appalling and distressing situation, not only on behalf of my husband Paul, but also because I was certain that other Islanders would be experiencing the same worrying and frustrating situation. I was contacted by a Wightlink customer relations manager who asked me to book directly with her due to the problems that Wightlink were experiencing. This was helpful to us, but I know many others passengers experienced similar NHS problems. I was told that Wightlink planned to invest in upgrading their phone system before the pandemic, subsequently a system change was ‘on hold’ because of the need to prioritise. You can only wonder what priorities they have, that came before this NHS patient ferry booking problem, especially as the Government were providing significant ‘Covid help’ to the ferry companies. Despite this self evident ferry booking issue, contrarily it seems that Wightlink in general do not believe there is a ‘need’ for any priority service. I cannot understand why they would believe this is the case, bearing in mind there is so much information to the contrary. Perhaps if members of the board had to travel for such life saving treatment without their ‘Wightlink priority’, they may then understand why there IS a need.

“As Kay’s husband, my words are to reinforce her accurate description of the Wightlink ferry booking uncertainties we suffered, at a time I was and may well be again, incapable of organising a cup of tea, despite my background as a forthright, self confident individual. It is thanks to her determination and courage we got through a very unpleasant
experience, depressingly it seems we and others may well face the same dire experience in the future. Paul Evans”

Kay Evans

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