HOVERTRAVEL has created a new way to transport patients across the Solent at any time of the day or night ­— cutting down journey times.

Working with the ambulance service to expand the range of options available, Hovertravel is now able to carry stretchers to both Southsea and Southampton ­— so patients can receive medical care at hospitals on the mainland.

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."

Thanks to the ingenuity of its engineers in Ryde, and the design expertise of sister company, Griffon in Southampton, Hovertravel can now deliver patients to Southsea in less than ten minutes, and to Southampton in less than 40 minutes.

"I would like to express my gratitude to the Marine and Coastguard Authority, which pulled out all the stops to get this modification authorised as quickly as possible," said Mr Chapman.

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."

Island MP Bob Seely said: "This will save hours taking patients to the mainland and lighten the load on our ambulance service.

"Now, more than ever, we need to deploy our medical resources as efficiently as possible."