Hovercraft adapted for patient transfer

Hovertravel has created a new way to transport patients across the Solent at any time of the day or night . Working with the ambulance service at Isle of Wight NHS Trust, Hovertravel is now able to carry stretchers to both Southsea and Southampton so patients can receive medical care at hospitals on the mainland and so expands the range of options available to the ambulance service.

Neil Chapman, Managing Director of Hovertravel, said, “Our priority is our Essential LifeLine Timetable for key workers and crucial items of freight as these are critical for the communities on both sides of the Solent during the current crisis.

“Helping the healthcare professionals on the island sparked an idea that Hovertravel could do more to help by transferring patients across the Solent and so thanks to the ingenuity of our engineers in Ryde and the design expertise of our sister company, Griffon in Southampton, we can now deliver patients to Southsea in under 10 minutes and to Southampton in under 40 minutes. I would also like to express my gratitude to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, which pulled out all the stops to get this modification authorised as quickly as possible.”

Once the call is received from the ambulance service, the pilot and crew (all volunteers for out-of-hours flights) will prepare the hovercraft, which will only carry the patient and necessary NHS staff. The ambulance will be driven on to the pad at Ryde and the stretcher can be wheeled up the ramp into the craft.

Maggie Oldham, Chief Executive at Isle of Wight NHS Trust, said, “The challenges posed by the Coronavirus pandemic are huge but the response of our local community and our Island partners has been fantastic. This Island Rescue service is great news for our patients and helps the NHS to keep working to protect our local community.

“It will cut down journey times, helping to make sure that the most unwell patients can get to hospital as quickly as possible and it will free up members of our ambulance service by reducing the number of staff and vehicles needed to transfer patients to the mainland.”

The luggage and freight area at the front of the hovercraft will be used to transport the patient and the stretcher, plus any additional equipment,  which are secured by straps to a series of newly installed locking points.