A hospital trust’s decision to fine patient transport ambulances £70 if they spend longer than 20 minutes unloading patients has been criticised by a health union.
It followed the decision by bosses at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle to extend parking restrictions around its main entrance to include patient transport vehicles operated by the North East Ambulance Service.
The NEAS declined to comment about the move by hospital bosses, but Joel Byers, NEAS branch secretary for Unison, said the decision to extend £70 fines to NHS ambulances unloading patients was “a bit draconian.”
Mr Byers said:
“You can’t just drop patients off in reception you have to take them to where they are going and that could be a ward at the furthest point from the entrance. Allowing 20 minutes to do this is not appropriate.”
The Unison official and staff side secretary added:
“If patients were able to walk or get in on their own it wouldn’t be an issue, but many need to be helped to get to where they are going.”
Mr Byers said it looked as if the Newcastle Hospitals Trust was seeking to fine people for doing their job.
“It’s a stressful enough job to start with without being pressured and worried about going over the 20 minutes. Aren’t we all supposed to be in the same Health Service?”
“Other vehicles including general public, staff, commercial suppliers and non-urgent passenger carrying, including taxis and ‘personnel carriers’ which may involve patient transport, are expected to respect the need for continuous traffic flow in this area, albeit some tend to park up when there are nearby designated patient transport holding bays that can be utilised as and when the need arises.
“North East Ambulance Service staff who utilise ‘personnel carriers’ and other ‘non-urgent’ forms of vehicles are not excluded from the restriction which is to achieve continuous traffic flow and safety as the overriding consideration. Simply to park up in restricted areas is unacceptable hence the risk of a parking charge notice.”
Source – Northern Echo, 09 Nov 2014
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
Frontline nurses and health care assistants gathered in the region this morning to protest against pay conditions.
Scores of NHS staff joined prominent MP Nick Brown outside Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital to show their anger at the Government’s failure to honour a 1% pay rise this year.
After three years of pay freezes and pay restraint, Chancellor George Osborne had said a 1% pay rise across the board was “affordable” from April this year. However, the Government then controversially reneged on this promise.
While some nurses and health care assistants will still get their incremental pay increase, which rewards experience and skills learnt after a length of service, many will not be entitled to the rise.
The Government has insisted it cannot afford a general pay increase without putting frontline jobs at risk.
Glenn Turp, Royal College of Nursing Northern Region regional director, said: “Nurses are working very hard and the number of people at our protest shows how angry our members are.
“It is baffling that the Chancellor said the Government could afford a 1% pay rise across the board and then that was reneged on. It makes no sense.
“What the NHS cannot afford to do is continue a policy of treating hard working and loyal staff with contempt, at a time when morale is at an all time low and trusts around the country struggle to retain and recruit enough nurses to maintain safe staffing levels.
“We see this as being a year long campaign leading up to the general election.”
Nurses, doctors, physiotherapists, paramedics, hospital cleaners and other NHS staff took part in demonstrations throughout the country.
Newcastle East MP Nick Brown said: “The Government’s continuing public sector pay restraint is not fair and not sustainable. It is particularly unfair on nurses and other low paid workers in the NHS.
“I completely support the Royal College of Nursing, hospital staff look after us in our time of need and we must stand up for them. It is important that the public understands just how shabby the Government is in treating key health service workers.”
Staff nurse Grace Onuoha, 53, of Walker, Newcastle, had just finished a night shift for Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust when she attended the protest.
The mum-of-three said: “It is very disappointing that there is not an across the board pay rise as we are working hard and doing a lot yet receiving nothing in return. It feels like we have been given a slap in the face by the Government.
“Morale is extremely low among staff as we are doing more and getting less. My pay is exactly the same as it was in 2009 despite the rise in the cost of living.”
The TUC, representing 14 health unions, said its research showed that health staff in England were “donating” £1.5bn worth of unpaid overtime every year.
Unions said that by 2015/16 NHS staff would have had their pay capped for six years. Pay was frozen in 2011 and 2012, and limited to 1% last year.
Susan Johnson, 47, of Killingworth, a senior sister in critical care at North Tyneside General Hospital, said: “It is frustrating because we work so hard and my concern is that we will put off future generations from joining the profession as nursing staff struggle with unsociable hours and are not very financially rewarded.”
The Department of Health said it was saddened by the health unions’ reaction to reject the pay offer. A spokesperson said: “NHS staff are our greatest asset.
“That’s why at a time of severe funding restraint we have been clear that they should receive at least 1% additional pay this year and next.
“We cannot afford a general pay rise on top of incremental pay increases of up to 6% without risking frontline jobs and safe staffing levels.
“We are disappointed that the unions rejected our offer to discuss any alternative proposals on pay, within an available budget of nearly £1bn.
“However, our door remains open if they wish to reconsider their position.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 05 June 2014