Commenting on the recent OFT report on cross solent travel NHS Isle of Wight Chief Executive Kevin Flynn says:
“We recognise that the journey from the Island, across the Solent to hospitals in Portsmouth and Southampton but also further afield for specialist treatment, is difficult for patients, particularly when they are not at their best in health terms. It can also impose financial burdens when, in exceptional circumstances, frequent journeys are necessary. We try to strike a balance between providing services on the Island including outpatient clinics where we bring specialists across from the mainland and asking patients to go to mainland centres of expertise which could not be supported on the Island due the small population.
“We welcome the news that transport providers such as Wightlink have expressed an interest in exploring ways of improving the arrangements for patients. Currently, as an NHS body, we are only able to pay for patients cross Solent travel, if they are eligible under the Healthcare Travel Cost Scheme (for example on certain benefits). Patients with a medical need, as determined by a clinician, will be eligible for Patient Transport Services and our unique Jumbulance makes frequent trips to and from mainland hospitals. In recognition that journeys are particularly difficult for some patients, who might not qualify in other ways for assistance, agreement was reached several years ago with Isle of Wight Council to fund certain cross Solent journeys (e.g. course of radiotherapy) for cancer and renal patients.
“Under the government’s extension of choice to patients Independent Sector Treatment Centres (ISTC) were established. The nearest ones, in Portsmouth and Southampton, have contracts with NHS Isle of Wight to provide some routine surgical services which relieves pressure on St. Mary’s Hospital. Care UK, the company which runs these centres is currently offering Islanders reimbursement of some travel expenses if they have their treatment in either Portsmouth or Southampton.”
In Summer 2008 a survey (ICM Public Perception Market Research) of over 1,000 Islanders showed that 42% of those interviewed indicated they would be willing to travel off the Island for treatment and of those, 81% would do so for inpatient treatment. More information about the two centres and the Patient’s Choice initiative can be found at www.nhs.uk. More information about the NHS Travel Costs Scheme can be found at www.nhs.uk/nhsengland/healthcosts/pages/travelcosts.aspx.