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.
“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”.
“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 email@example.com.
Source – Berwick Advertiser, 06 November 2014