NHS plea over ambulance abuse

THOUSANDS of pounds of NHS cash is being wasted each year by selfish patients abusing free hospital transport.One patient travelling to a hospital in Colchester even requested a non-emergency ambulance because it was too cold to take his own car out of the garage.

THOUSANDS of pounds of NHS cash is being wasted each year by selfish patients abusing free hospital transport.

One patient travelling to a hospital in Colchester even requested a non-emergency ambulance because it was too cold to take his own car out of the garage.

Managers at Essex Rivers Healthcare NHS Trust are concerned about the money being wasted when patient's book transport but do not travel.

The three most common reasons for this are patients making their own way to hospital without cancelling transport, being out or not being ready when an ambulance or ambulance service volunteer driver calls.


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On average, this wastage costs the trust £700 a week or £36,400 a year - the equivalent of employing an experienced nurse.

The trust, which manages hospital transport for Colchester General Hospital, Essex County Hospital and the community hospitals at Clacton, Halstead and Harwich in liaison with the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust, claims many patients are taking advantage of the free system.

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Other recent examples of this include:

n A patient's wife using the service to go shopping in Colchester town centre

n Patients asking to be dropped off at a friend's house on the return home from hospital

n Relatives following ambulances in their own cars

n Patients demanding an ambulance to avoid paying parking charges at hospital

n A patient who complained because tea and coffee were not available on the ambulance.

Mandy Winslet, project manager for Essex Rivers Healthcare, said: “While the NHS has many important responsibilities, patients also have a responsibility to not abuse the system. People who have a genuine need for non-emergency NHS patient transport are currently being put out and subjected to unreasonable journey times and delays.

“For example, if the transport service was used properly, the most fragile, sick and vulnerable people in the community would be more likely to be brought into hospital on time and not have to hang around after their appointment before they go home.

“People need to think before they ask for transport and not simply do so as a matter of personal convenience.

“Essex Rivers Healthcare spends more than £1m on non-emergency patient transport every year, including those journeys which are aborted or cancelled, which is money that could be spent on direct patient care.”

Hospital transport is provided for patients who have a medical need for this service or require continuous oxygen, intravenous support or a stretcher.

Other patients who have no alternative means of transport may also be considered in certain circumstances, such as if they are wheelchair-users, have a mental health problem, learning disability, speech, sight or hearing difficulty which prevents them from using public transport or they require skilled assistance when transferring to and from vehicles.

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