Tagged: Clinical Commissioning Groups in the North East

South Shields : Bedridden woman faces £60 bill for hospital taxis

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.

He said:

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.”

He added:

“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 northoftynepals@nhct.nhs.uk”

> Welcome to the wonderful world of the privatised NHS… it’s only going to get worse.

Source –  Shields Gazette, 03 Nov 2014

Blind man was asked: ‘Can’t you get the bus to hospital?’

A blind man in South Tyneside says he was asked if he could “get a bus” under a controversial new vetting system for ambulances.

Former lorry driver Alan Tully, 65, lost the sight in his left eye 25 years ago to glaucoma and has very minimal sight in his right.

He regularly books ambulances for treatment at Sunderland Eye Infirmary and a diabetic clinic at South Tyneside District Hospital.

But when he called last Friday to book an ambulance for an appointment at Sunderland Royal Hospital next month, he was told he was “not entitled” to one – and advised to take a taxi or bus instead.

The move comes after a new eligibility system introduced by the North East’s clinical commissioning groups.

Mr Tully, of Winskell Road, Simonside, South Shields, said:

“I rang my GP at Cleadon Park and they told me the system had changed and they gave me a number to ring.

“When I called, they asked me if I couldn’t not use a taxi instead. I thought he meant a taxi ambulance, which I have used in the past, but he meant for me to pay for a taxi.

“I rang back later and this time the woman asked if I could not get a bus to Sunderland.

“I just told her I was blind and my legs aren’t too good.”

Mr Tully, who gets about with the support of his guide dog Zeke, called the service last Friday and is still waiting to hear from health bosses if he meets the criteria needed for an ambulance.

He added: “I think it’s absolutely disgraceful, I really do.

“How are pensioners supposed to be able to pay for taxis?”

South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck expressed her concerns over the rule change and is to seek a meeting with the region’s Commissioning Group.

A spokesman on behalf of the Clinical Commissioning Groups in the North East said he could not comment on an individual case.

He confirmed that regulations did not exempt a person with any particular condition or illness from having their transport eligibility reviewed.

She added:

From October 20, all new Patient Transport Service bookings are subject to a short eligibility assessment, in accordance with national policy.

“This will take the form of a small number of questions being asked at the time of booking.

“The purpose of eligibility criteria is to ensure that those patients, with a medical requirement, can access transport to hospital. Patients with a medical requirement to be transported by ambulance will continue to receive transport.

> You might have thought that any patient trying to get to hospital for pre-arranged treatment could be considered to have a medical requirement ?

“Patients who are not eligible, are given information on alternatives available to them. Patients will not have to pay for an ambulance where there is a medical need for transport.”

If patients have any concerns or queries, they can contact the North of Tyne Patient Advice and Liaison Service via Freephone 0800 0320202, by text to 01670 511098 or by e-mailing northoftynepals@nhct.nhs.uk.

Source –  Shields Gazette,  25 Oct 2014