A man has told of his outrage after being told he’d have to pay £60 to take his disabled wife to hospital by taxi.
Joe Charman and his wife Lyndsay have regularly used North East Ambulance Service’s patient transport to get to and from hospital appointments.
But, following changes to the system by the Department of Health, the couple, of Ingleside, South Shields, have been told they no longer qualify.
Mrs Charman, 50, suffers from myotonic dystrophy, a type of muscular dystrophy that relaxes the muscles, and is unable to travel on the bus or Metro.
Mr Charman, 58, asked for an ambulance to take her to Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital next week for a heart check and clinic visit, and says their only option now is to get a wheelchair taxi.
But – with a bill of £30 each way – Mr Charman, who is a registered carer for his wife, says they simply cannot afford to go.
“My wife had to have a pacemaker fitted last year because of her condition.
“She fell at home and broke her ankle in April and was in South Tyneside District Hospital for a while because she had a blood clot in her arm that they said had been because of the operation.
“She was sent home 14 weeks ago and ever since then, she has been in a hospital bed at our home.
“We have to go to the Freeman once a year for her heart check and muscular dystrophy clinic. We live in Marsden and have always got an ambulance.”
“I used to ring the GP and they would organise one for us, but this time was told I had to ring a different number.
“The man I spoke to wasn’t very nice and he said he had to ask a series of questions before he could book us an ambulance.
“He asked about my wife’s disability and how I would get her to hospital in an emergency. I said, if I had no other choice, I would get a wheelchair taxi and he said that’s what I’d have to do this time.
“It would cost £30 there and the same back and we just can’t afford it. My wife is on incapacity benefits and I get a small carer’s allowance.
“We can’t afford £60 to get to a hospital appointment, and she can’t get on the Metro or the bus.”
“I’ve had to ring the Freeman and tell them we can’t make it. We’ve always been given an ambulance in the past and I don’t understand why it’s different now.
“We’re hoping the Freeman might be able to help us out but we’re waiting to hear back from them.”
A spokesman for the Clinical Commissioning Groups in the North East said:
“We’re sorry to hear about Mr Charman and his wife’s situation and the inconvenience this may cause.
“From October 20, we implemented the Department of Health’s national policy, where all new patient transport bookings are subject to a short assessment.
“The assessment includes asking a few questions about how you would normally travel for day-to-day activities and if friends or family normally take you to your appointments.
“The purpose of this assessment is to make sure that the people who require ambulance services are prioritised and that the NHS is making the best use of the funding it has available.
“We understand that this can be a frustrating experience and some people who have previously used this service may find that they are no longer entitled to patient transport.
“If this is the case, then the booking service is offering information and advice on alternative forms of transport.
“If patients have any concerns, queries, or are unhappy with a decision, they can contact the North of Tyne Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) via Freephone 0800 0320202, by text to 01670 511098 or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org”
> Welcome to the wonderful world of the privatised NHS… it’s only going to get worse.
Source – Shields Gazette, 03 Nov 2014