A tax on the sick and their relatives could be abolished in a review by the Humber Bridge board, which currently charges people who have to visit hospital on the other side of the river.
The Grimsby and Scunthorpe Telegraphs made a heartfelt plea to the meeting to persuade them to provide free crossings for poorly North Lincolnshire people who get vital treatment on the north bank.
A letter from Scunthorpe editor Jon Grubb and Michelle Lalor, editor of its sister newspaper in Grimsby, was put before the board members.
It was the latest effort in the papers’ campaign to scrap a £2.50 each way toll for patients receiving care on the north bank, and comes at a time when more medical treatment is due to be provided in Hull, which is north of the Humber.
Some 4,000 readers of the two papers have also voiced their concern by signing and returning coupons to register their feelings.
Members of the bridge board supported a submission from the editors and voted to re-examine the concessionary tolls policy.
Their letter said: “This is a plea for help. It comes from people who are sick and in need of hospital care which could prolong or possibly save their lives.
“They include people with cancer, patients who suffer heart conditions, others who need specialised treatment for kidney disease and some who require specialist consultation in neurology.
“For some it is a journey they will make again tomorrow and the next day and every other day. It is also one which in many cases they cannot afford.
“Which is why we – The Scunthorpe Telegraph and the Grimsby Telegraph – make this joint appeal to the Humber Bridge Board to help ease the financial burden that patients seeking essential treatment now face through no fault of their own.”
Health authority figures show 7,787 visits were made by North Lincolnshire people to hospitals in and around Hull for treatment in 2001/2.
Assuming they all used cars to cross the Humber Bridge at £2.50 a time, patients had to fork out £38,935.
But by 2005 existing clinical oncology and radiotherapy services will move from Lincoln to Hull, when a new cancer unit opens in Cottingham. The new £39m centre will have 100 patient beds, 30 chemotherapy stations and six radiotherapy machines, and provide services to North Lincolnshire residents, which will force them to make the crossing.
The trust estimates an additional 160 patients will visit Hull per year for radiotherapy by 2006, with each making an average of 20 visits, which could mean patients paying an additional £16,000 a year.
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