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.


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