Fear for elderly as NHS changes trans­port rules


FEARS HAVE been raised of sick and elderly peo­ple in ru­ral North York­shire strug­gling to get to hospi­tal ap­point­ments af­ter the rules on who is el­i­gi­ble for NHS­funded trans­port were tight­ened.

Pa­tients in the Up­per Dales have told how they faced a “bar­rage of ques­tions” from am­bu­lance ser­vice staff when try­ing to ar­range lifts with the Pa­tient Trans­port Ser­vice (PTS).

NHS bosses launched a re­view of the PTS ser­vices, say­ing some pa­tients were us­ing the trans­port when they were not el­i­gi­ble to do so.

Ham­ble­ton, Rich­mond­shire and Whitby Clin­i­cal Com­mis­sion­ing Group (CCG), which com­mis­sions the ser­vice, said the rules had not changed and the cri­te­ria had been brought into line with na­tional stan­dards.

Barry Wil­cox, of Hawes, told how he strug­gled to per­suade York­shire Am­bu­lance Ser­vice staff to pro­vide trans­port to hospi­tal for his 97-year-old mother Elsie.

Mr Wil­cox said: “More and more I find that when I ring up the call cen­tre to ar­range trans­port I meet with a bar­rage of ques­tions.

“The op­er­a­tor said, ‘why does your mother re­quire the trans­port?’.

“I re­peated, time and time again, that she is 97, she’s al­most blind and is hard of hear­ing. It was a bat­tle of wills.”

Mr Wil­cox said pa­tients were be­ing asked if they could ar­range al­ter­na­tive means of trans­port.

He said: “One of the ques­tions the call cen­tre op­er­a­tors ask is whether your neigh­bours can take you. Half of our neigh­bours are re­tired and don’t have cars and the other half are work­ing dur­ing the day.

“We in the Up­per Dales de­pend upon the pa­tient trans­port.

“I know NHS fund­ing is in dire straits. But they re­ally are at­tack­ing pa­tients when they are prob­a­bly at their most vul­ner­a­ble be­cause of their health con­di­tions.”

Up­per Dales County Coun­cil­lor John Blackie said there were con­cerns that pa­tients had been given lit­tle no­tice of changes to el­i­gi­bil­ity for trans­port.

Hawes, which has not had a rail­way sta­tion since the 1950s, is 60 miles away from James Cook Univer­sity Hospi­tal in Mid­dles­brough and more than an hour away by car from hos­pi­tals in Northaller­ton and Dar­ling­ton.

Coun Blackie said: “This has been im­ple­mented with­out con­sul­ta­tion. Quite clearly it’s a real con­cern.

“From Hawes to James Cook hospi­tal it is 60 miles. You can’t go there and back in a day on the bus.

“I feel that this is a very in­sen­si­tive way of in­tro­duc­ing the changes. I think it is an ut­ter dis­grace.”

CCG bosses said the PTS con­tract with the am­bu­lance ser­vice had seen an in­crease in de­mand and it could not af­ford to meet the cost of trans­port­ing pa­tients who were not el­i­gi­ble.

From Oc­to­ber 15, pa­tients who are not en­ti­tled to use the PTS ser­vice will be guided to vol­un­tary or­gan­i­sa­tions of­fer­ing a car scheme which is capped at £20 per jour­ney. Pa­tients on ben­e­fits are able to re­claim the cost of trans­port to hospi­tal.

Those who go to hospi­tal reg­u­larly for re­nal dial­y­sis, chemo­ther­apy or ra­dio­ther­apy treat­ment will au­to­mat­i­cally re­ceive PTS trans­port.

A CCG spokesper­son said: “We an­tic­i­pate that im­proved im­ple­men­ta­tion of the na­tional el­i­gi­bil­ity cri­te­ria for PTS will en­hance the cur­rent ser­vice for Ham­ble­ton, Rich­mond­shire and Whitby pa­tients who are el­i­gi­ble and pro­vide sign­post­ing for all other pa­tients to ac­cess other trans­port op­tions where friends or fam­ily can­not as­sist.”

Wildlife keeper Ashleigh Hunter with one of koalas set­tling into their new home in Lon­gleat Sa­fari Park as part of an Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment ini­tia­tive.

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