Plans To Change Medical Travel Reimbursement Rejected

Yesterday's Hospital Trust consultation in the Town Hall

NHS plans to change the way medical travel tickets are reimbursed have been rejected by Councillors and the community.

Residents who have to travel to Cornwall for tests or treatments currently pay £5 for their flight and take hospital papers to the travel companies to complete the booking.

But as St Mary’s Hospital is now operated by a new non-NHS body, Peninsula Community Health, managers at the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust, which includes Treliske, have to take over the administration.

Yesterday, NHS bosses proposed introducing phone-bookings for medical trips.

Tresco Councillor Mike Nelhams told the Council’s health overview meeting that would make things easier for off-islanders, but the plan was met with opposition.

The proposal to make residents pay the full ticket price and then claim the cash back when they reach their mainland appointment was strongly opposed at both yesterday’s public and Council meetings.

Concerns were voiced over the outlay of cash, especially if patients also needed to book for a medical escort. NHS bosses said GP’s would decide who needed to be accompanied.

Councillor Amanda Martin claimed that many locals, unless they worked in the Council, were poorly paid. Some locals choose not to take benefits and don’t have spare cash.

Sue Williams of the health watchdog Link said the plan could mean that islanders choose cost over healthcare. She pointed out that patients requiring regular treatments, like radiotherapy or chemotherapy, could face large bills.

Just getting the money back could be difficult. Councillor Amanda Martin felt island patients, in a rush to make the last flight home, wouldn’t have time to wait for reimbursement.

After much opposition, NHS Trust Patient Facilities Manager, Julie Rowe explained the plan was to bring Scilly into line with Cornwall where people also have long journeys.

Other areas could argue for being a special case if Scilly was.

That didn’t appear to go down too well with some Councillors who argued that islanders’ travel costs are just supported to the mainland and Scilly patients can also have to bear mainland accommodation fees.

Dudley Mumford, who chaired the Council meeting, reminded NHS bosses that the islands have special legal status.

Martin Watts, the Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust Chairman thought the public consultation session had been very constructive. He told us he was keen to find a win-win situation for the all concerned but also emphasised the need for “greater efficiencies” at the Trust, which is currently £25m in debt.

Councillors unanimously voted against backing the medical ticket changes and the Trust will now work on a new plan.

Councillor Amanda Martin suggested the Trust could send out a travel warrant with an appointment letter.


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