The Solent Freedom Tunnel – What Healthcare benefits will it offer?
Isle of Wight Hospital departments are closing.
This is due to the difficulty of recruiting qualified staff and the high expense of providing services on an island that is not efficiently interconnected to the mainland (4 miles away) by a road.
- Paediatrics, Surgery, Cancer and intensive care are already being transferred away off island … other departments will follow.
- Ferry fare subsidies, funded by the IOW Council taxpayer are now being withdrawn. Islanders are now having to find vast sums to travel to the mainland to gain healthcare.
- The journey can be a harrowing one. Hospital appointments can be disrupted by high winds, fog, ferry staff sickness, ferry mechanical breakdowns or ‘technical difficulties’.
- The journey is arduous, even when a person is fit. But when ill or immobile… getting to the ferry, parking the car, queuing for the ferry for 30 minutes (recommended) the boarding, disembarking, bus or taxi can be too much for some. Same on the way back too…. sometimes after surgery.
- In an emergency, the charity funded Air Ambulance can be used if available, which costs £thousands each time.
- Standard vehicle ambulances can be used, but the return journey time, renders the ambulance and staff out of commission for minimum of five hours. The transfer from Newport to Southampton General in an emergency using the Red Funnel ferry, would be a minimum of two hours…. for a 12 mile journey as the crow flies.
All of the above problems will be solved with the Solent Freedom Tunnel.
How are islanders going to travel to mainland healthcare, without a fixed link?
The 25th January 2018 BBC South Today episode, describes the problems of providing hospital healthcare on the Isle of Wight, due to the islands’ isolation. Labour party spokesman Julian Critchley warns of people dieing, before being able to reach mainland healthcare. Head of Social Care – Councillor Clare Mosdell, explains that islanders must use mainland services as it is the “National Health Service”, not an island health service. Bob Seely MP, is quoted as saying the island hospital must now work with the mainland hospitals, after having previously insisted this would not be required.
The Solent is regarded as one of the most expensive stretches of water in the world to cross by ferry. Patients will struggle to cover those fees, as will visitors of those patients. Due to the expense, the sporadic and unreliable nature of ferry travel … it is thought that many islanders will choose to die prematurely or suffer an illness, rather than be treated. It is already happening.
What does the Department of Health & Care say about the IOW Hospital potentially closing?
The Hampshire and IOW STP Delivery Plan of 21st October 2016, sets out the future direction of regional healthcare. It states that:
“Improving the quality of hospital services – Acute hospital providers are working as an Alliance to reconfigure unsustainable acute services to improve outcomes and optimise the delivery for the population in Southern Hampshire and on the Isle of Wight. Supporting services will be reviewed to ensure that provision is efficient and cost effective. We are implementing the national recommendations, including those in maternity services to improve outcomes and reduce variations in practice. It has been proposed that some of our medical care will only be available on the mainland.”
These proposals demonstrate why providing specialist health care on the island is presently unviable and the need for change is stated in the ‘NHS Clinical Commissioning,’ Isle of Wight “Transforming acute services of the Isle of Wight” February 2018 document.
To quote the STP Delivery Plan:- “While these changes will mean fewer and shorter journeys for most, we recognise that some, particularly those on the Isle of Wight, may need to travel further than today”
“In line with this Government’s commitment to devolve power to communities, decisions about NHS services are essentially a matter for the NHS locally”
So In other words, NHS healthcare needs to be made viable and affordable in the locality. NHS trusts need to agglomerate services and resources throughout the wider area, in order to become efficient. This can only be achieved using fast, reliable, 24 hour availability of good connectivity between healthcare resources and patient care locations.
So what about small communities on the nearby mainland, linked by roads. Do they still have local hospitals?…
Both Southampton General Hospital and the Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth, are the two largest hospitals in the Solent region, carrying out a broad range of medical care using specialist departments…. but many other smaller hospitals also exist nearby, as can be seen on this map below:
Google search finds many hospitals in Hampshire, but just one hospital on the Isle of Wight. Good physical connectivity, has allowed efficient staffing and resource agglomeration within the Hampshire area, creating useful more localised satellite community hospitals, to compliment the general hospitals. However…. 24 hour, road based connectivity to the Isle of Wight is not presently available. Resources and staff must be shipped or flown in sporadically, and patients are transferred to and from the mainland in the same fashion. This causes the IOW Hospital to be isolated and very expensive to operate.
To resuscitate the hospital from its decline and perhaps create further additional smaller IOW community hospitals… the remedy is good connectivity. This can only be achieved with a road based cross Solent Fixed Link. It would encourage also the usage of island hospitals by mainland patients, making departments viable again due to the larger catchment area.
What about other island communities within the UK? What happened when Skye got it’s Fixed Link for example?
The Isle of Skye was formerly isolated from the Scottish mainland until 1995, when a fixed link bridge was opened. In 2015, proposed designs for a new hospital on Skye were published by NHS Highland. This new establishment is intended to serve not just Skye islanders, but also residents of the nearby mainland, who can now easily access it.
Ambulance transfer by Ferry
- Standard vehicle ambulances can be used, but the return journey time, renders the ambulance and staff out of commission for minimum of five hours. The transfer from Newport to Southampton General in an emergency using the Red Funnel ferry, would be a minimum of two hours… if the ferry is ready and waiting.
- When transferring a patient to the mainland late at night, the ambulance and crew can become stranded for hours on the mainland while waiting for the first early morning ferry the next day.
Ambulance transfer by air
In an emergency, the charity funded Air Ambulance can be used if available, which costs thousands of pounds each time used.
Click photo to donate to the charity… or here
The PRO-LINK plans.
From page 3 of the PRO-LINK submission to the IOW Infrastructure task force.
Benefits of a cross Solent Fixed Link:
“• G14 – The fast and efficient utilisation of ambulances with staff, (consultants, doctors, etc.) operating between the island and mainland hospitals.”
“• G17 – The attraction of high skill set personnel including teachers, doctors, GP’s, consultants, industry specialists etc. who will not need to worry about the islands present day isolation; Thus avoiding the worry of career “dead ends”.
How will the Solent Freedom Tunnel provide solutions?
Below are distance and times to reach emergency care on the mainland with the Solent Freedom Tunnel… offering 24 hour, 365 day reliability of immediate transfer.
St Mary’s IOW Hospital to Southampton General = 26.79 miles by road.
Approximate journey time by Ambulance = 25 minutes at night, or 50 minutes peak commuter period.
St Mary’s IOW Hospital to Queen Alexandra Hospital, Portsmouth = 21.05 miles by road.
Approximate journey time by Ambulance = 18 minutes at night, or 30 minutes peak commuter period.
The Solent Freedom Tunnel will:
Save lives with immediate and reliable speed of transfer to hospital specialist care off island
Allow mainland and island healthcare resources to agglomerate (IOW Hospital viability)
Allow ambulance agglomeration when required (IOW Hospital viability)
Allow hospital staff, consultants, doctors, nurses to travel freely between the island and mainland (IOW Hospital viability)
Allow 24hour/365 reliability. (IOW Hospital viability)
Allow affordable and fast access for patients off island to be visited by friends / relations (better quality of life)
Allow the retainment of more specialist care on the island, due to a larger Solent region catchment area. (IOW Hospital viability)
Allow patients to receive ongoing mainland care, without the arduous ferry journeys. (better quality of life)
Allow direct inter hospital bus transfer, for those patients / visitors who don’t / can’t drive. (better quality of life)
Allow hospital staff to dwell on the island, without the fear of isolation from the mainland. (IOW Hospital viability and better quality of life)
Quoted from the IOW County Press article:
“In a letter to NHS England, the Council’s Policy and Scrutiny Committee on Adult Social Care and Health said the potential journey from the Island to Oxford had great implications for patients in terms of distance and cost.
Over 11,000 responses to the consultation were received from individuals, NHS organisations, clinicians, medical and professional associations – including Cancer Research UK – and private healthcare providers.
For a patient to attend an appointment in Oxford, assuming there are no delays or disruptions, would require over three hours of travel each way. If the appointment is at a later time, the patient could be forced to find accommodation for the night.
A round trip would require twelve changes, double that or more than someone travelling from the mainland. A return ticket for the ferry costs £22.60, and a return train ticket £42.50.”
What does the MP -Bob Seely, believe the solution to cross Solent Healthcare is?
This 3 minute excerpt from his interview with Anne Lovelock of IOW Sunshine Radio, explains all about his ideas:
Are the MP’s art and “mindfulness” solutions realistic? Will the sick and infirm, or those who have no funds to cross the Solent frequently, survive with no fixed link?
Please leave your comment below – of any stories you may have concerning cross Solent journeys to mainland Healthcare, the MP’s ideas, or anything else concerning the subject above?
The comments will be read worldwide, also by the NHS, local and national government.
Carl Feeney (PRO-LINK)