Isle of Wight ferry services must be improved for patients' sakes

If you have to travel to the mainland from the Isle of Wight for a hospital appointment, it’s both difficult and costly. <i>(Image: IWCP)</i>
If you have to travel to the mainland from the Isle of Wight for a hospital appointment, it’s both difficult and costly. (Image: IWCP)

The Isle of Wight’s ferries, the frequency, reliability and cost - always an issue - have now become a major concern.

With the government allocating tens of millions of pounds to both Southampton and Portsmouth hospitals to buy services and beds for Islanders, the numbers of Islanders being forced to rely on the ferries to receive vital, life-saving medical treatment are rising.

For many cancer patients, this is not new. St Mary’s Hospital on the Isle of Wight has gone from being a Centre of Excellence for breast cancer to mainly a screening service.

Cancer patients, already vulnerable, are forced to travel daily for weeks at a time for radiation and chemotherapy. Not just breast cancer, all cancer.

READ MORE: Isle of Wight ferries should have minimum service levels says MP

I cannot imagine how exhausting that must be while going through such a worrying ordeal. Then add to that the cost.

Even with Wightlink discreetly offering people travelling for medical appointments a 50 per cent discount.

If you are travelling five days a week for radiation on the FastCat, then catch a bus or taxi to the hospital, that still works out at a minimum of £60 a week, without a cup of coffee.

Many people need a companion, or would prefer support. The cost and the time involved makes this hugely difficult.

The government, despite moving the Isle of Wight’s medical services piecemeal over to Portsmouth and Southampton, have refused to subsidise Islanders’ travel and time costs on the principle that they don’t fund travel for anyone using the NHS. This is nonsense.

Such principles clearly do not apply to the private companies that the NHS has contracted to carry out minor day procedures.

READ MORE: Chaotic Isle of Wight ferry no good for hospital appointments

When I had an operation for carpel tunnel on my hand, Southampton Treatment Centre sent Red Funnel Red Jet tickets for me and my husband for the op, and the follow up, as well as paying for the taxi.

This begs the question why are travelling costs free for those undergoing minor procedures but not for those with life-threatening illnesses that have no other viable option?

There needs to be some joined up thinking in order to reduce the real suffering that is being caused or contributed to by the government, (Hello Bob Seely MP) not just in forcing Islanders into expensive and lengthy commutes for medical care, but to ensure that the infrastructure is there in order for fair and affordable access.

I don’t know how the young people that rely on the Wightlink Yarmouth to Lymington route to attend Brockenhurst College get to socialise with friends at the college, or do after school stuff. If they miss the 5pm ferry back, they have to wait until 7pm.

When our government sold publicly owned Sealink to a private company, they failed to put in any requirements for a minimum public service to be maintained, or place any regulatory authority to oversee them.

READ MORE: Blame Thatcher for bad Wightlink Isle of Wight ferry service

This means that all Islanders have to rely on the integrity of the ferry companies. We all know how that’s going.

It’s essential, not only for those having to travel to the mainland for treatment, but for commuters, shoppers, businesses, families, and students that we have some kind of public service order placed on the ferries in order for Islanders to be able to access the mainland.

It’s a question of integrity.