Isle of Wight seriously ill patients 'to be moved to mainland'
Seriously ill patients could be transferred from the Isle of Wight to the mainland under new proposals.
The plans for St Mary's Hospital, Newport, would ease the pressure it faces by cutting the number of operations by 8,000 a year, the island's NHS trust has said.
However, there are concerns some of the most vulnerable patients could be put at risk during lengthy transfers.
The trust said the move would improve quality of care for patients.
Under the plans, patients needing more urgent or specialist treatment would be transferred.
Isle of Wight NHS Trust said acute services would be delivered "wherever clinically appropriate" with about 90% of "current hospital activity" remaining on the island.
The move is expected to reduce the overall number of patient journeys to the mainland by about 500 a year.
The joint working of staff on the island and at mainland hospitals "will ensure patients receive the best possible care, and staff are able to retain and extend their clinical skills", the trust added.
Campaigner Christine Lightbody, of Isle of Wight Save Our NHS, described the move as "frightening" for the seriously ill.
"Their health is surely going to be compromised by having to undertake such long journeys.
"And once they're there, what sort of support are they going to get from family and friends who basically have to fund themselves to visit them in hospital?"
The trust said it currently "struggles" to recruit specialist staff to the island leaving some services "under-resourced and overstretched" which is further impacted by the ageing population on the island.
The proposal will be considered by the Isle of Wight Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and, subject to approval from its governing body, there will then be a period of testing and consultation with staff, members of the public and hospital partners during 2018-19.
Conservative Isle of Wight MP Bob Seely said criticism of the plans was "scaremongering".
"There are already about 32,000 patient journeys to the mainland every year anyway because we can't provide all the types of complex care which you need now in a very complex health environment.
"The purpose is to deliver world class healthcare for islanders - what I want to do is have a conversation with the secretary of state to make the case for greater island funding, that we are unique because we are isolated by water," he said.