Solent hovercraft operator launches medical transport service

Photo: Hovertravel official Facebook page

UK hovercraft ferry operator Hovertravel has launched a new service dedicated solely to transporting patients and medical staff across the Solent between Ryde on the Isle of Wight and Southampton and Southsea on the mainland.

One of the company’s two vessels has been configured to accommodate stretchers to ensure Isle of Wight residents in need of medical care at hospitals on the mainland have access to transport even with restrictions on all other forms of sea travel in the UK that have been imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The necessary modifications were carried out by Griffon Hoverwork with assistance from the ambulance service of Isle of Wight NHS Trust and were subsequently approved by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and the UK National Health Service (NHS).

Once the call is received from the ambulance service, the pilot and crew 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.

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.

The hovercraft will land at either Southsea or at a temporary pad on the Itchen River and the patient will be transferred from the craft into a waiting ambulance and on to hospital.

Neil Chapman, managing director of Hovertravel, said that the new service will enable the transport of patients from Ryde to Southsea in under 10 minutes and to Southampton in under 40 minutes.

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