From Maggie Nelmes, Ventnor:

IT WAS at an Age-Friendly Island public forum that I and another participant voiced our concerns about the Isle of Wight Council’s subterfuge over their public consultation on their plans to cut cross-Solent travel subsidies for NHS patients having to attend mainland hospitals.

Our Age UK IW co-ordinator informed Healthwatch, the Island’s health and social care watchdog, the paper version of the consultation was not on display in public libraries and in doctors’ surgeries, as it should have been, but kept under the counter to be given only to those who requested it.

Why this subterfuge? Inquiries revealed only 200 copies had been printed for a population of nearly 150,000.

Was this just to save printing costs, or was it a deliberate attempt to keep responses very low so the council could claim that the public was not concerned enough about the proposed cuts to respond, and that there was very little opposition?

If it hadn’t been for Age-Friendly Island, the initiative that holds public forums across the IW, where people over 50 can discuss the problems facing older people and think of possible solutions that Age UK IW can put into practice, this would have gone unnoticed.

If it hadn’t been for Healthwatch and IW Save Our NHS, it would have gone unchallenged and the cuts would have been implemented without much public awareness.

Surely this issue affects every Island resident? Anyone of any age could be struck down by cancer — you, a family member or close friend. So this consultation should have been advertised widely and made available to everyone.

One of the questions in the consultation asks what alternatives to council funding you would suggest.

I responded that the government should pay transport costs for all NHS patients having to travel to mainland hospitals for treatment, and for their carers.

The Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) claims the government’s reorganisation of the NHS across the country is intended to bring acute (hospital) services nearer to patients’ homes. And yet for more and more IW patients the opposite will be the case.

Earlier this year, the Clinical Commissioning Group voted for an option to send 11 per cent more patients for treatment to the mainland.

If Islanders do not make their voices heard by taking part in this consultation, on paper or online, by joining in the discussions at Age-Friendly Island’s forums, advertised in the County Press, in libraries and on online media; if they do not follow the Isle of Wight Save Our NHS Facebook group, sign petitions, write letters to the press, and join in public debates, rallies and other protest activities, they will have only themselves to blame if our council or our government takes advantage of our apathy.