Updated: Flights For Pregnant Women Still Unresolved

The Steamship Company say they are working on a solution for transporting mums-to-be in the later stages of pregnancy from Scilly to the mainland after concerns were raised by an islands’ resident.

Harriet Smith of St Mary’s is due to have her baby on 8th November, a week after the helicopter service ends. Harriet’s doctors have advised a C-section and she’s been told she will have get to the mainland and find and fund her own accommodation in Truro before the birth.

Heavily pregnant women can currently fly on BIH but Skybus has restrictions.

Skybus says they can currently transport women who are up to 27 weeks pregnant without a doctor’s certificate. Between 28 and 36 weeks, expectant mums need a doctor’s certificate confirming the stage of pregnancy and that they are fit to travel.

ScillyToday first flagged up this issue up at the start of August and Harriet says she’s surprised that the Steamship Company haven’t changed the rules yet.

Harriet has been told that if she were to give birth at full term or if there were problems, the Culdrose helicopter could be dispatched to St Mary’s at the cost of around £10,000.

And she says although the boat is available outside winter months, it may not be the best solution. She said if someone went into labour on a long boat crossing, that could be more serious than on a 15 minute flight.

The health professionals on the islands are discussing the situation, says Harriet, but she hasn’t been offered a solution yet.

The Steamship Company say that travel after 36 weeks is not recommended by the CAA and various health professionals due to the remoteness of the islands but Nick Sanders, the Group Commercial Manager, says they’ve arranged a meeting with the NHS Commissioning Team on September 20th to agree the details of launching a stretcher service, which recently received LAG funding.

The service should be in place by November to tie in with the date when BIH cease theirservice to and from the Isles and Scilly.

The stretcher will allow women who are more than 36 weeks pregnant and very near delivery date to travel more comfortably. This option will also allow for the passenger to be accompanied when they are transferred to the mainland.

Travel beyond the expected delivery date will be permitted between Land’s End and St Mary’s with a doctor’s certificate confirming fitness to travel and if accompanied by a suitable medical professional such as a midwife, doctor or paramedic.

Nick said it’s now down to the NHS to commission the service that Skybus have available.

Carol Clark from Health watchdog Link4Scilly says they are very aware of the issues and have been pushing the NHS for a solution. But she added, when referring to the advice Harriet had been given, that, “if this is the best they can come up with, then it’s not good enough.”

Marian Bennett of Frist, the Friends of Isles of Scilly Travel says Harriet’s case epitomises the serious human problems that the lack of a lifeline transport service will mean for some islanders.

She says because of inadequacy of basic transport provision, access to and from Scilly will be denied to some people at times when they are at their most vulnerable and have the greatest need to be at home.

Marian says that’s unacceptable and the Department for Transport should be pressed to support an all-year lifeline service that fulfils the islands’ most basic needs.

We’ve still not had a reply to our request for a comment from the NHS.


7 Responses to Updated: Flights For Pregnant Women Still Unresolved

  1. Penny September 14, 2012 at 9:56 am

    I agree with Felix, perhaps the islands community could start being a little more positive about what we DO have rather than focusing on what we won’t have! Surely all this negativity will only damage the islands tourism industry further!

  2. pat September 13, 2012 at 6:43 pm

    Thank you Carole for all the work you and Link are putting into this, as i’m sure like many grandparents, parents and especially expectant mums, its quite a stressfull time.

  3. Felix Picton September 13, 2012 at 5:53 pm

    it is so easy to run Skybus and the Steamship group down without getting the full facts. As always Skybus gets the rough end of the stick (initial Pregnant women article). It hasn’t been mentioned that Skybus has flown all BIH’s Passengers as well as their own into and out of the islands for the last 3 days as BI have had to carry out essential maintenance. Oh and BIH are abandoning the islands for 2 weeks in October. The so called spare aircraft has been tech for months (no planning there then!). It’s about time the residence of Scilly and Penwith started to Support the Islands own airline and discuss calmly and rationally their concerns with the company rather than continually professing doom and gloom about the loss of BIH. Skybus and the Steamship company will rise to the challenge so long as the anti Skybus contingent aren’t given the chance to scupper them. You know who you are!!!!

  4. Carol Clarke September 13, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    LINk would like to make it clear that the comment we gave Scilly Today was in response to news that the NHS is expecting women to spend several weeks away from the islands prior to their due date. This was before we learned of the arrangements that Skybus have offered to put in place regarding stretcher transfer after 36 weeks. We are pleased with the response to this situation by Skybus and will urge the NHS to commission this option.

  5. Sam Mallon September 13, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    Not only cost implications but what happens if you already have a child, particularly a school age child? It is not in the mother or child’s best interests to be apart for weeks on end or do you take your child out of school? What about a partner/husband who obviously wants to be with his partner at this time to give her support at an exciting but also anxious time and to ensure he is going to be there for the birth of their baby. Is he expected to give up work for this time or commute?? This is just another, but very major, problem we are now facing with the loss of the helicopters. Please Skybus try and sort something out for us and quickly. Don’t let us down like BIH has.

  6. maggie September 13, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    This is going to be a major problem, with some women having to spend up to six weeks on the mainland, at a time when they need the support of their family and friends. it will do nothing to help their well-being, adding a major stress which can, in turn have an adverse effect on their health… not to mention the expense!
    This really does need to be resolved asap.

  7. Mary September 13, 2012 at 10:35 am

    Do those in authority know the traumas experienced by very sick patients and pregnant women when they are unable to fly back to the Islands? There are many issues here about care, including respite care, which Link can take forward for us all. Please support them. Congratulations to all health workers who do their very best in trying circumstances imposed by others.