Healthwatch Report Says Winter Travel Was ‘Very Concerning’

skybus twin otters

Patients travelling to the mainland last winter for medical treatment have described their experiences as a ‘nightmare’, ‘appalling’ and a ‘shambles.’

Those are some of the experiences contained in a report from Scilly’s Healthwatch organisation, published this week, which describes the delays to treatment experienced by some patients as ‘very concerning.’

The health watchdog ran a questionnaire during the first three months of 2013, which logged 86 responses from patients.

It revealed that 25% of respondents were unable to arrange travel for the first appointment offered to them by the hospital because of lack of seat availability, even when booking up to four weeks in advance.

And 20% were unable to attend on the day because of delays and had to re-arrange their appointment.

Skybus was unable to use Land’s End airport for long periods last winter due to water logging of the runways, and flights were diverted to Newquay airport.

Healthwatch says many people spoke of the worry and stress involved in making last minute changes to flights and surface transport to enable them to make their appointments.

They say the high incidence of delays to treatment is unacceptable and must not happen again.

However, the majority of people who were delayed did manage to attend their appointment, either because the clinic was accommodating to their late arrival or because they had allowed for delays when planning their journey.

Most travellers incorporated a night or two away into their travel plans, often involving considerable extra cost, which is borne by the patient.

But not all problems were weather-related, with several people reporting problems getting through to the RCHT Transport Office to book their flights.

Healthwatch say they appreciate the response of the NHS, the Council and Steamship Group, who worked together to deal with the challenges at a time when a number of factors contributed to the unprecedented level of travel disruption.

But they want Skybus to review the timing of their flights, to allow more people to travel to and from appointments in a single day. They also want improvements to surface transfers from Newquay airport and more assistance for people with limited mobility.

A winter boat service a few times a week, and more provision of treatment on the islands to reduce travel have also been recommended.

The full report is available at the Healthwatch website.

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