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.

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