There are several changes to medical transport from the islands under the NHS's new Non Emergency Patient Transport policy.
Islanders can still travel by air or sea, for both day trips and longer stays, and there remains no time limit on patient travel (other than the existing 72-hour limit when travelling with an escort).
However, the travel warrant for Isles of Scilly patients will no longer cover the cost of the shuttle from Land's End to Penzance. The NHS subsidy towards Age UK's TAPS cars has also been withdrawn. TAPS, which provides a voluntary car service to help people get to health appointments, will now charge the full cost of a round trip.
NHS-funded transport was previously available for escorts of pregnant women attending a 20-week scan, and escorts of patients attending a ‘two week wait’ appointment, where an initial diagnosis would be discussed. This is now only funded for people on a low income or in receipt of certain benefits, as set out in the Health Care Travel Costs Scheme.
There is also some good news. Healthwatch Manager Carol Clarke told This is Scilly that a major proposal in the initial policy consultation would have been "very detrimental" to the islands. It was suggested that NHS-funded transport for people with outpatient appointments who are staying overnight would be restricted to the boat.
"This was a very unpopular policy and subject to much discussion with stakeholders in the islands," she said. "The good news is that they listened when they were told it was a bad idea and the proposal has been dropped."
Carol said that Healthwatch will challenge one or two elements in the policy that they feel may have been "a change too far" and that it will be kept under review by the Clinical Commissioning Group.
However, she added: "On the whole, this puts us on an equal footing with the rest of Cornwall. We are not going to lose any more than anyone in Cornwall so it's not as bad as it could have been."