Government Told Islanders Risking Health Through Transport Problems

skybus twin ottersIsland residents are risking their health because of problems with transport to and from the islands.

That’s what Scilly’s Healthwatch has told the government in a report submitted to a Commons Select Committee investigating passenger transport in isolated areas.

Healthwatch claims that the time, cost and stress that patients bear when travelling means the current provision is “not adequate.”

They say islanders have been unable to travel for check-ups or treatment because seats have been unavailable on flights.

Since the BIH helicopter service ended, Skybus has had a monopoly on air travel to and from the islands.

Healthwatch says they’ve received “a very high number of comments about the difficulty in arranging travel for an appointment or admission because of flight schedules.”

Some patients found that seats were not available on a required flight, even when booking weeks ahead. That means appointments and admissions need rearranging which, in turn, can delay treatment.

And there could be more challenges this summer.

The Steamship Company’s decision to shorten peak-season flying hours could create problems for locals who want to travel to the mainland and back in one day.

Healthwatch has pointed out that summertime Skybus flights will start an hour later at 8.30am, reducing the window for medical appointments at Cornish hospitals to between 11.45am and 2.45pm.

Jane Hurd from Healthwatch says the situation is causing concern.

She says there is evidence that people have delayed treatment for serious conditions and cited a comment on this website, from someone who put off treatment for a lump.

Jane says it’s not just the “hassle” of arranging travel, but the expense as well, which can include unexpected costs for overnight accommodation if a flight is missed or cancelled.

We sent Skybus the details of the Healthwatch submission to government.

The Steamship Company spokesman said that they “have regular contact with Healthwatch and will discuss these concerns directly with them.”

Jane says Healthwatch is doing all it can to address the issue on behalf of patients.

They have a medical travel group, which brings together the different medical providers, and Jane says they’ve “fallen over backwards” since the helicopter stopped to help islanders arrange their appointments at a suitable time.

Jane says Healthwatch will continue meeting with Skybus and all other parties involved in order to get the best result for residents.

She added that they won’t make any suggestions to government about how services should be operated, although they have said funds for infrastructure and operating subsidies would be beneficial.

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