A raft of suggestions aimed at improving the travel experience of patients visiting the UK for treatment is to be discussed in a special meeting next month.
Manx charity Bridge the Gap which helps to improve facilities and support for young people with chronic and life-threatening medical conditions has instigated the proposals.
The charity’s Fiona Barker said she really hoped it would provide a springboard for improvements to be made.
’We have a questionnaire on our website and that includes questions about travelling off island. We met members of Travelwatch to discuss some of the responses this had prompted and they suggested we put it on a document,’ she said.
The Council of Voluntary Organisations has since added some comments of its own and a meeting is planned at the Villa Marina in Douglas on next month to discuss proposals.
’It would be great to get as many people as we can to come along to the meeting in March, then we can start making improvements. People with certain illnesses have no option over whether they go off-island for treatment,’ she said.
One of the suggestions is to provide each patient with a so-called medical passport. This would be a travel document providing the airport or ferry terminal with certain essential personal information such as the name of the person accompanying them, NHS number and a tick list of travel requirements such as whether fast track security and check in are needed, whether a wheel chair is to be used, or oxygen tanks, and whether special, more accessible or more comfortable seating is required either in departures or on board the plane or boat.
The document also suggests the ’passport’ could be submitted to patient transfer at the time of booking, so the information is supplied in advance and perhaps even a scannable wrist band could be issued to patients to match them with their record at the travel terminal.
In addition, a great improvement would be provision of a screened off comfortable seating area for sick patients, a private room for use by patients who may need to undergo a medical procedure while waiting, and a direct telephone line giving out-of-hours contact with a patient transfer representative in the event of any delays.
Other suggestions relate to procedures in flight and provision of seating at baggage reclamation and arrivals.
Similar issues are highlighted with sea travel with a request made for early boarding to allow ill passengers to find reasonably secluded seating, ideally near to a disabled toilet.
The document also cites occasional breakdowns in communication, giving the example of a wheelchair bound patient who had made a return ferry crossing recently.
It says: ’ Bridge the Gap contacted the Steam Packet to arrange reserved seating in requested seats. This made for a much less stressful outward-bound sailing but unfortunately, due to a communication error, the seats were not reserved on the return trip.
’It seems that staff are more than willing to help and offer an excellent level of care but the needs of the patient must be successfully communicated or the disappointment can add further distress.’
Tim Mansfield, director of commissioning for the Department of Health and Social Care, said many suggestions fell beyond his remit but they were pleased to encourage changes and explore their feasibility.
He said: ’We are particularly aware that for people who are very ill regular journeys to the UK are hard work so anything that can be done to improve the experience is a good thing. We have had discussions with the Department of Infrastructure over arrangements at Ronaldsway and we’ve spoken to Flybe who operate the planes.
’We don’t have a contract as such with Liverpool airport but discussions are going on about a discreet seating area.’
Find the full document at bridgethegap.im/patient-transfer-presentation-travelwatch-isle-man/