Local cruise firm supports cross-Solent patient transfers

A local cruise company is supporting the IW Ambulance Service in the transfer of critically-ill patients across the Solent.

Solent and Wightline Cruises have agreed to offer their services to transfer patients who need urgent and emergency care at hospitals on the mainland.

The Cowes-based firm, who offer boat trips around Portsmouth Harbour, will be on standby to receive patients from the Ambulance Service and take over to Portsmouth or Southampton while sea travel restrictions remain in place.

Solent & Wightline Cruises will provide a cross-Solent service alongside Hovertravel which is a very recent partnership that has been established with the Isle of Wight NHS Trust.

The catamarans are able to sail in all weathers, including fog and high winds; enabling patients to be safely transferred at short notice should the Hovercraft be unable to fly.

Victoria White, Head of Ambulance Service said: “This continues the work we have been undertaking to enable those patients who need to be transferred across the water for urgent care.

“Working together with Hovertravel and Solent & Wightline Cruises will enable us to facilitate transfers at any time of the day or night and in all weather conditions which is vital and we are incredibly grateful to both partners for this support.”

In order to safely carry patients on board some modifications have been made to one of the vessels to accommodate an Ambulance stretcher and fixings have been fitted to the lounge passenger floor to keep the stretcher secure.

Lee Rayment, Managing Director, Solent & Wightline Cruises said: “As an Island based business operating for nearly 50 years, we are only too pleased to continue to assist the NHS Trust which we have done for many years. This will also be helping those on the Isle of Wight when their medical needs require specialist treatment, especially during these unprecedented times with restricted ferry availability. Our own premises in Cowes will allow easy access and discreet private departures.”

The catamaran is able to transport patients to Southampton or Portsmouth in under 45 minutes where they will be received by South Central Ambulance Service and then transferred on to a neighbouring hospital.

Andrew Williamson, Passenger Operations Manager at Portsmouth International Port added: “This new service is a vital lifeline that ensures patients from the Isle of Wight can continue to receive the treatment they need, despite the challenges that the pandemic has presented.

“We’re all in this together, so we are proud that we can play our part by receiving ships at the port and facilitate patient transfers to nearby hospitals. The Queen Alexandra hospital is only 10 minutes’ drive from the port, so we’re ideally placed to ensure ambulance journey times are kept to a minimum.”

A number of training scenarios have taken place in the Solent to ensure all agencies are coordinated.