●● WITH Dr Paul Bowen, a GP with McIlvride Medical Practice, Poynton, and executive chair of NHS Eastern Cheshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG). THE main job of a CCG is to plan and buy a wide range of health services and work with providers to ensure the best outcomes for patients.
However, we have other ambitions too – including doing everything we can to make it easier for people to access healthcare and other vital public services.
Convenient passenger transport is a challenge in areas like eastern Cheshire.
Around half the population lives in the countryside, where there are greater distances to travel and less concentrated demand for public transport.
We are part of Cheshire East, the third largest unitary authority in the north west.
That’s why we’ve agreed to partner with Cheshire East Council and neighbouring NHS South Cheshire CCG on a £450,000 scheme to improve how rural passenger transport services work together.
The money was awarded to the council by the Department for Transport from its Total Transport Pilot Fund.
It will pay for a study of how to improve the effectiveness of passenger transport services bought by the public sector.
The Transport and Rural Integration in Cheshire East (TRICE) study will investigate joining up: ●● Flexible bus and minibus services, funded by the council, with non-emergency patient transport services paid for by the CCGs. ●● Health and education taxi services funded by the CCGs and council respectively. ●● Mainstream home-toschool transport contracts and fixed-route supported bus services paid for by the council.
The aim is to get more from existing services.
For example, off-peak bus services might be used for non-emergency patient transport while non-emergency transport underused at school peak times could be used to provide home-to-school trips.
The possibility of using community car schemes to provide school and patient transport will also be considered.
The study will measure how easy it is to access healthcare, education, employment and shopping in rural areas with limited fixed-route bus services.
The study will shape a detailed proposal to the Department for Transport for a TRICE service to start next year.
●● Dr Paul Bowen