Tagged: patient transport

Northumberland : Patients can’t access crucial care

A Seahouses patient awaiting an operation has challenged a health boss to get from his village to Hexham Hospital on public transport.

It comes after the Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) introduced new national guidelines last month which mean strict criteria has to be met before a patient is eligible for transport.

One of many patients affected in the rural north of the county, Mr Vickers of Seahouses – who has surgery scheduled for a ruptured Achilles tendon – says he cannot physically reach his appointments on time without the service.

Journey times to his appointments at Hexham hospital by bus would take in access of four hours. Even then it is impossible to reach earlier appointments on time; or get back the same day following later appointments.

A taxi would cost him £120, plus £10 an hour waiting time, or £80 for a one-way trip.

In a letter CCG chief Dr Alistair Blair , Mr Vickers wrote:

“I challenge you to get from Seahouses to Hexham hospital and back to Seahouses in one day using pubic transport and keeping appointment times.”

“Your criteria is depriving me my human rights for proper medical treatment in Northumberland.”

Lib Dem parliamentary candidate Julie Pörksen said:

“I was shocked to hear about the impact the changes were having on ordinary people. It is completely unacceptable to expect older people and those who are not in the best of health to make arduous journeys.”

> Surely its unacceptable to expect anyone to have to do those sort of public transport journies ?

Ms Pörksen said she had spoken to one patient who was told to get a taxi to their appointment then reclaim the £100 fare from the hospital.

This is simply ridiculous,” she said. “There is an assumption that the high cost of a taxi fare could be met and that it would be OK to get that money back from the hospital.

“What patients need is to be able to use patient transport if a realistic and sympathetic assessment of their needs shows that it is justified.”

A spokeswoman for NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Groups said:

From 20 October 2014, 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. This means that we can free up emergency services as these appointments are planned using dedicated patient transport vehicles and means that patients don’t have to wait as long.

“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.”

She added: “We have introduced a script at the end of the eligibility assessment that allows people to tell us if their journey into hospital is very different from their everyday trips and then affects their health. This will allow us to make sure that we are not disadvantaging those people who have to make long or complex journeys for their healthcare.

“People also now have the opportunity to tell us any other information that they think may influence the decision to get patient transport to their appointments.

“We are committed to ensuring that patients who live in rural areas are not disadvantaged by the implementation of the criteria, however, we still need to ensure that this is applied fairly across the region.”

If patients have any concerns, queries, or you are unhappy with a decision, they can contact the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) via Freephone 0800 0320202, by text to 01670 511098 or by emailing northoftynepals@nhct.nhs.uk.

Source –  Berwick Advertiser, 29 Nov 2014

Union says fining ambulance crews is ‘draconian’

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?”

 A spokeswoman for the Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said:
In the vicinity of the Freeman Hospital main entrance there is a 20 minute wait restriction, but which does not apply to emergency vehicles – ambulance, fire, police, Armed Forces etc.

“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

Northumberland : ‘Unfair’ transfer changes leaving patients stuck

A Seahouses man due to have an operation to repair a ruptured Achilles has been left stranded by new transport to healthcare rules.

Health bosses have changed the transport criteria, meaning some patients are expected to spend over five hours a day on public transport to attend hospital appointments.

Mr Vickers from Seahouses was informed of the change when he phoned to book transport to an appointment ahead of his operation on the 28th of this month.

He said:

“I would usually get an ambulance taxi but they told me I couldn’t anymore. The whole thing is ludicrous. Now I’m stuck, I can’t get to Hexham unless I get a private taxi.

“I was even more upset when they said after I have the operation, am in plaster and on crutches, I’m still not entitled to transport to get home.

“We had no idea anything was going to change. They said a new criteria had been brought in and asked all these ridiculous questions like are you blind, are you in a wheel chair, do you get housing benefit. I don’t know how many others have operations booked and don’t yet know about this.”

Berwick’s Liberal Democrat MP Sir Alan Beith described the new rules as “grotesquely unfair”.

He said:

“People have been told to get from Berwick to North Shields and back on a series of buses with no certainty their treatment will be finished in time for the last bus back to Berwick. Another constituent was told to take a two-and-a-half hour bus journey from north Northumberland to the Wansbeck Hospital for regular injections.

“Elderly widows are being told if they can use a local bus for a 10 minute journey into Berwick they should have no difficulty travelling on several buses to get to the Freeman.

“This is simply not acceptable and creates a huge barrier to healthcare for people in north Northumberland.”

Sir Alan said the situation was “even more insulting” to local people when they are being told they cannot go to Borders General Hospital which has a direct bus link from the centre of Berwick to the door of the hospital.

“This chaos all results from decisions of the Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group and the uninformed way the decisions are being implemented in rural areas,” he said.

It’s clear that people sitting behind desks in urban parts of south east Northumberland have no idea how difficult it is for people without a car or someone to drive them to get to distant medical appointments.

“I have raised this issue with the Chief Medical Officer of the Clinical Commissioning Group and I will be raising it in Parliament, where I have already been taking up the restrictions on cross-border access to health services.”

A spokesperson for the Northumberland CCG said:

From 20 October 2014, 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 based on their health needs 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.”

They added: “We are in the early stages of implementing this process and we would like to reassure everyone that we are continually reviewing issues and concerns raised to make sure a common sense approach is applied.

“We are committed to ensuring that patients who live in rural areas are not disadvantaged by the implementation of the criteria, however, we still need to ensure that this is applied fairly across the region.”

If patients have any concerns, queries, or you are unhappy with a decision, they can contact the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) via Freephone 0800 0320202, by text to 01670 511098 or by emailing northoftynepals@nhct.nhs.uk.

Source –  Berwick Advertiser, 06 November 2014

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