NHS Backs Down Over Medical Travel Charges

Mainland health bosses have backed down over their plans to introduce ‘up-front’ charging for medical travel.

Last October, NHS bosses proposed changing the current travel warrant system to make patients pay transport costs up-front and claim the money back later.

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 the Council of the Isles of Scilly rejected their proposal, saying it jeopardised the health and wellbeing of the Islands’ community. People who needed regular treatment such as chemotherapy, they said, could face huge bills.

The Council accused the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust of a failure to communicate and in March, their Chief Executive was forced to apologise for remarks suggesting that islanders abuse the medical travel system.

But all sides have now agreed that Isles of Scilly patients will continue to book their travel arrangements in the same way as they do now.

The only change for some patients will be how they obtain their travel warrant reference number.

If their appointment is with Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust patients will ring or email the Patient Transport Office in Treliske, while those booked with Peninsula Community Health will continue to organise that through St Mary’s Hospital.

The new system should be in place by Monday 11th June.

It had been hoped to put a single system in place but Peninsula said they wouldn’t be able to use RCHT’s system.

Jane Hurd, representing the Islands’ LINk health watchdog, said this is a good result for patients, adding that relations between all parties involved are now much better.

She said much of the misunderstanding was caused by a lack of appreciation of the problems faced by patients in Scilly when travelling to the mainland.

And she hopes their report on medical travel in Scilly, which has recently been distributed to health officials on the mainland, will help to highlight some of these issues.

Jane says LINk are keen to monitor how the new system is working, with a first review later this year in September. Anyone wishing to give feedback should contact the LINk office.