Local councils join call for £5 ferry fares

Local councils on the Island have joined growing calls for more financial help for patients needing treatment in mainland hospitals.

The Isle of Wight Association of Local Councils (IWALC) has collected data on discounts available from the ferry firms – but has echoed a demand made by Island MP Bob Seely in  parliament for equal treatment with the Scilly Isles.

Scillies residents pay just £5 for medical travel under special NHS rules.

IWALC, which represents a large majority of Island town and parish councils, felt parishioners were confused about available subsidies. It said plans to move some of St Mary’s services to the mainland meant that even more patients would be affected in the future.

Wightlink, Red Funnel and Hovertravel offer varying discounts, of up to 50 per cent, for NHS patients. There is also an NHS Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme (HTCS) for those on certain benefits or with low income.

Red Jet 7 stock image

IWALC county officer, Maxine Warr said: “Even with these concessions, which are probably the most that can realistically be expected of the ferry firms in the absence of regulation, there are still large and increasing numbers of Islanders for whom mainland hospital treatment is a financial burden as well as a traumatic personal experience.

“With the planned migration of more services to Portsmouth and Southampton, this burden can only increase.

MP Bob Seely

“Bob Seely recently told parliament that a £5 cap, to bring us in line with the Isles of Scilly, would be a fair and reasonable gesture for the Government to make, and we agree.

“He is also on record as calling for the Isle of Wight Council to be given powers to impose a public service obligation on the ferry firms. IWALC sees this as a possible way forward.”

In recent weeks Mr Seely has also written to ministers attacking the “effective duopoly” of Wightlink and Red Funnel.

Speaking later, he also raised the prospect of the IWC raising finance to buy one of the ferry firms.