Councillors Question Cost Of NHS Medical Travel

hospital 4Councillors have questioned why islanders are having to pay considerable sums of money to attend mainland medical appointments, even though UK law says it should cost no one more than £5.

The issue was brought up during a discussion on medical travel at the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

Healthwatch director, Jane Hurd, said that while patients receive a £5 concessionary fare on Skybus, they still have to pay considerable amounts to get from Land’s End to Treliske Hospital.

And that’s even worse for off-islanders, who often need to book a special boat to get them to St Mary’s.

Manager for Adult Social Services, Gareth Peters, said the situation was worse for St Martin’s residents recently when one of the medical travel providers decided they didn’t want to renew their contract.

The Council had to step in to organise alternatives.

But Cllr Christine Savill asked why the authority had to do this when it was the responsibility of the NHS to provide travel to medial appointments.

Nick Masters from the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Travel Office also briefed members on proposed changes to their travel policy.

They’ve tried to clear up some of the confusion over how some patients travel and when the NHS will pay for medical escorts – usually relatives who accompany sick or vulnerable patients.

Previously, the policy said that people weighing over 15 stone, who had trouble boarding a plane, either had to go by sea or wait until they were able to take a flight.

Nick said that was clearly impractical and those patients would now be offered a stretcher transfer on a charter flight.

But there’s still work to do on when escorts can claim a reduced fair.

Jane Hurd said there had been a couple of cases recently when doctors in Scilly had asked a relative to accompany a sick patient, but that person then had to find their own way back.

She said that was obviously a problem. “If someone is asked to go, they don’t like to say no” said Jane, “but it’s grossly unfair to expect them to foot a £100 bill to get back to the islands.”

Nick said he would investigate this with the local medical team and the Kernow Commissioning Group.

3 Responses to Councillors Question Cost Of NHS Medical Travel

  1. Jenny October 31, 2015 at 8:02 am

    Why do some people focus on what they do not have. We have a NHS which provides free treatment at the point of delivery to anyone and everyone regardless of income. Unless someone requires an ambulance then everyone in England pays something to attend a NHS appointment. Where you live in relation to your NHS healthcare facility will impact on what it costs you to get there.Could there not be a fund available, raised through fund raising events to support those people who need to attend mainland appointments very often, like those with cancer, or have unwell children?

  2. Ian T. October 30, 2015 at 6:52 pm

    I totally agree that the cost of travel to and from the mainland for islander patients and ‘carers’ should be covered. However this should be for the TOTAL cost (not even a £5.00 charge) and for off-islanders as well. but the travel on, to wherever the appointment is, should be not be re-imbursable unless the patient is on some sort of benefit. This is in line with mainland practice as I understand it.

  3. Malcolm Martland October 30, 2015 at 5:01 pm

    This is an old issue which I raised with the appropriate health trust some years ago – long before Peninsula. I was once eligible to get a free hospital car to physiotherapy appointments at Marie Therese House or neurology appointments at Treliske. TAPS took over, then the free service was withdrawn by Hospital Transport. I wrote to Hospital Transport and was told the £5 was only an admin fee for a subsidised flight and covered no more. I took it up with MP Andrew George who made enquiries (also to Hospital Transport) and came up with the same answer!

    The brochure covering travel clearly states that it shall cost no more than £5 for Isles of Scilly patients to travel to hospital appointments but those who run the system did not and do not interpret this as anything other than a flight related fee.

    Now we can get the cost of transport fron Landsend to Penzance included for the £5 but any further travel is still down to us! I now have to travel with an escort so onward travel costs to me are doubled. My wife, Liz, had to go to London for several hospital appointments and the fare to Newquay was covered but not the onward flight to Gatwick, taxis etc. Grin and bear it seems to be the only answer to me. Whenever possible I always try to get appointments at/or changed to West Cornwall so travel costs are covered or at least minimal.

    Don’t forget many of the consultants come here too, ophthalmology, gastroenterology, dermatology and more! The system doesn’t always add up correctly, especially if a different department refers you. In my case Neurology referred me to Ophthalmology. I received an impossible 08:30 eye appointment at Helston, despite the fact that excellent Ophthalmologist, Mr. David Jones, regularly visits St. Mary”s. Through the Health Centre doctors I was seen within 7 days at St. Mary’s Hospital! It’s always worth checking first!

    Remember, we do get first class NHS treatment free, long may this last!