Urgent call for ‘Marine Ambulance’ service amidst rising Isle of Wight to Mainland healthcare travel costs

This letter originally appeared in the OnTheWight website. You can see it here.

News OnTheWight always welcomes a Letter to the Editor to share with our readers – unsurprisingly they don’t always reflect the views of this publication. If you have something you’d like to share, get in touch and of course, your considered comments are welcome below.

This from Guy Eades, Sandown. Written in response to the news about the new CEO for IW NHS trust being shared with Portsmouth Hospitals Trust. Ed

The cost of a day return to Portsmouth from Ryde is £22.00 and £16.50 for age 65+. More on the hover to Southsea. Then there is the time and cost to travel to Ryde from somewhere on the Island + car parking charges (both considerable combined if you do not live in Ryde) + the time and cost of travelling from Portsmouth Harbour to Cosham.

Factor in that the individual can/will possibly feel ill, possibly frail, needs someone to accompany them and the weather may be foul in winter and dark and you have to travel up and down the pier.

This is even before you arrive for an appointment. Then there is the return journey at the end of the day possibly after a few hours at Cosham. Exhausted and dispirited.

Day after day
Then you have to do it all over again the next day and possibly each day over weeks for some treatments. The person may not be well enough to drive themself to the ferry or on the return journey be recommended that they do not drive – so this involves the cost of a taxi.

Even with Community Actions Optio service this is going to cost £20+ each way or more dependent on time and distance.

Social needs not considered
This new arrangement between the IW NHS Trust and Portsmouth Hospital just has not taken into account the social needs and requirements of Island residents – just designed for inpatient and specialist clinical delivery reasons (which in some cases makes sense) but not for outpatient type healthcare.

Marine Ambulance
I have suggested a ‘marine ambulance’ to Darren Cattell using a fitted out launch like a terrestrial ambulance between Ryde and Portsmouth. This is the system they use in other countries like Norway with coastal towns and offshore islands not located near to the Hospital.

He said he would consider it when the plans for the new arrangements between the IW And Portsmouth were further developed and put out to ‘public consultation’. Now he has gone and there has been no consultation and we are back to square one on achieving any satisfactory travel arrangements.

We need an urgent solution
I have also suggested this idea to Bob Seely however he replied he left these issues upto the NHS Trusts to determine which doesn’t really help either.

If the provision of healthcare on the IW for its residents means an ever closer partnership with Portsmouth and Southampton – which now seems inevitable and irreversible at present – then we need some urgent solution to the issue of travel to the mainland using imaginative joint investment by both NHS Trusts before much else is decided.

We need an MP like Steve Ross
One further option is for the IW to elect an MP – like Steve Ross in the 1980s, who actively took an interest in the Islands healthcare and secured the monies required to build the St Mary’s District General Hospital and its services which over the past five years have continued to unravel to this present state of causing so much anguish for those who are unwell and need to be treated on the mainland.

A new MP needs to sit down with the Health Managers and Boards and insist a better system is established at the earliest opportunity and before any further clinical services are agreed to be delivered on the mainland.

Anguish, pain and misery
Otherwise the health and life expectancy of Islanders especially 65+ will substantially deteriorate, falling behind the mainland and the community will acquire another ‘deprivation’ statistic.

However what this means in real terms on a daily basis is a lot of anguish, pain and misery for a lot of people and it should not be acceptable or allowed to happen.