Scilly Health Services Improve Since Helicopter Pullout

helicopter at airportThe NHS has been outlining the progress being made in delivering healthcare services for islanders, following the demise of the helicopter service from Penzance.

Speaking at the Heath Overview and Scrutiny committee, Assistant director of commissioning Sian Dennison described how issues around transport of patients, medical samples and medications were being dealt with, although weather problems and the closure of Land’s End airport had created new challenges.

Sian said patients with limited mobility could now travel using the new Skybus Islander stretcher or on the Scillonian III, which is being fitted with a lift and wheelchair anchor point.

And she assured LINk4Scilly representative, Jane Hurd, that patients would be discharged from hospital in sufficient time to make the 8.45am boat check-in time at Penzance.

But she said that while pregnant women over 36 weeks could now travel to Land’s End, they couldn’t go to Newquay if the flight was redirected due to airport closure. They’d need to go by air ambulance as an emergency case.

That’s because CAA rules state that women in this situation must travel “to the nearest airport.” Sian said they were discussing the rules with the flight regulator, as Newquay was the next nearest airport if Land’s End was closed.

Cllr Richard McCarthy echoed the frustration, saying it was a pity “they couldn’t sit the CAA in front of a map.”

Blood transfusions can now be transported to the islands by air, although medical samples can still only be moved to the mainland by the Gry Maritha. Cllr Dudley Mumford said that Skybus is expecting to receive their CAA licence for this shortly.

The NHS says they are also keen to deliver more services to patients on the islands rather than making them travel to the mainland although plans are still sketchy.

Sian said the closure of Land’s End airport had affected the ability of health care professionals to reach Scilly for a day visit but the impact was unknown.

And while an new digital X-ray system has been installed on St Mary’s that could email X-rays to mainland consultants, the GP’s had still not been trained to use it in emergency situations and no date was given for when or how that would happen.

The NHS intends to carry out a further impact assessment to identify if there is an increase in the number cancellations and non-attendance by patients caused by flight disruption.

They’ll also measure how many health care professionals are unable to reach the islands due to transport issues.



7 Responses to Scilly Health Services Improve Since Helicopter Pullout

  1. Lindsay Sawyer March 4, 2013 at 7:57 pm

    To ‘Susan Sto’ – you missed the irony in my comment!

    It is always a shame that folk ‘hide’ and do not put their real names….

  2. Raggett March 1, 2013 at 7:24 pm

    When did Sian Dennison say that the Health Services had improved since the demise of the helicopter service. The helicopter could undertake all of these tasks before it closed , could it not?
    A little bit of creative reporting methinks!

  3. Margaret March 1, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    Is anyone able to explain why the vet is able to use her new

    X-ray machine but the GPs need to wait for training ?

  4. Susan Sto February 27, 2013 at 11:24 pm

    Lindsay, I think the headline is incredibly positive, it reads as though things have got “Better” since the helicopter stopped. Whereas the reality is a local health service in disarray. I’m not talking about the staff at all, just the organisations ability to deliver the service in certain quarters, whether it is the NHS or Skybus. The difference for the islands now as opposed to 6 months ago is stark and incredible. The helicopter, the staff and the organisation were what supported the islanders at times when they needed it most. Now, whether it is people with mobility problems, or who are incapacitated, blood tests or pregnant women, it all adds an extra strain to an already struggling community.

  5. steveatt February 27, 2013 at 10:02 am

    Which regulation is that? I can only find this on the CAA website :-

    The advisability of flying whilst pregnant is a frequently asked question.

    The commercial aircraft environment is not generally considered hazardous to the normal pregnancy. At a normal cabin altitude the maternal haemoglobin remains 90% saturated and because of the favourable properties of foetal haemoglobin (HbF) including increased oxygen carrying potential plus increased foetal hematocrit and the Bohr effect, foetal PaO2 changes very little.

    The key focus in assessment of fitness to fly is the health and wellbeing of the mother and the baby. Delivery in flight, or diversion in flight to a location, which may not have high quality obstetric services, is undesirable. For this reason, most airlines do not allow travel after 36 weeks for a single pregnancy and after 32 weeks for multiple pregnancies.

    Most airlines require a certificate after 28 weeks, confirming that the pregnancy is progressing normally, that there are no complications and the expected date of delivery. In specific individual circumstances, an airline may allow some discretion.

    • Ian T February 27, 2013 at 9:09 pm

      Is it me or should pregnant women avoid crossing Dartmoor? After all it is over 2000 feet high in parts and, I believe, Skybus flies no higher than that…??? More bureaucracy gone mad.

  6. Lindsay Sawyer February 27, 2013 at 7:51 am

    Well….that’s certainly a very positive headline, for an article which is full of not so positive statement!