The Isle of Wight Council’s cabinet has agreed to continue to grant £60,000 a year to fund patient transport for residents needing mainland medical treatment.
The money will now be granted directly to the local NHS trust to fund the scheme, instead of the council operating it in unison with the trust under the current very limited eligibility criteria.
The present 13-year-old scheme offers a non-means tested reimbursement of ferry costs only for patients undergoing chemotherapy, radiotherapy and renal dialysis.
However, a report to cabinet explained that medical advances meant requests are now received for travel claims relating to new-generation cancer treatments such as radioactive iodine treatment or immunotherapy, but these are not covered by the scheme.
The option agreed by councillors will give the money to the NHS to be used only to support patient transport, but with greater freedom to use it for more conditions and more treatments . This ‘would enable the council to contribute financially to the development of a more equitable transport plan’, the report said.
The council recently undertook a consultation on funding the scheme it has paid for since 2006. It is the only local authority in the country to give money for patient transport in this way.
“The consultation told us loud and clear that this funding was very much needed and we have listened to patients’ views and taken this decision to continue with it,” said Cabinet member for adult social, public health and housing needs, Councillor Clare Mosdell.
“There are problems with the present scheme, not least that it’s not really meeting the needs of many who apply for it or need it because of its limited scope, and the fact it’s not means tested.
“However, we think it is right to offer continuing financial help, but with the new focus on the NHS using the money at its discretion to allow it to extend the criteria for those who need it.
“Although we have decided to grant the money, it was right that the council looked long and hard about funding this scheme when it’s not its duty to do so.
“It must also be remembered there are also other forms of help for those who need to travel to the mainland for medical appointments including an existing NHS scheme and discounts from the ferry companies.”