Patient bus service hits the road

Launch of a new hospital bus by Framlingham Rotary Club's Hour Community project, with donations fro

Launch of a new hospital bus by Framlingham Rotary Club's Hour Community project, with donations from the Mills Charity plus help of expertise from Community Action Suffolk. The bus will fill a need for rural hospital transport. - Credit: Gregg Brown

Hospital patients in rural Suffolk have been given a vital link to appointments thanks to the efforts of volunteers and generosity of fundraisers.

The new bus service will be operated entirely by volunteers from the Hour Community project, led by Framlingham Rotary Club.

The £10,000 scheme will begin as a three-month trial project after receiving financial backing from the Framlingham-based Mills Charity.

Drivers will transport patients to hospital on three days of the week and offer people twice-weekly excursions to places they may otherwise not be able to visit.

The dial-a-ride bus follows on from the community car scheme for people without their own vehicle and unable to access public transport.

Similar schemes emerged following changes to NHS arrangements for non-emergency patients in 2011, when a new central point was set up for screening eligibility.

Nick Corke, of Framlingham Rotary Club, said the bus will offer greater capacity to transport more patients to and from hospital.

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“It will be available to people who are unable to get there by any other means,” he added.

“We are trying to make it more economical by using one vehicle. This should allow us to take more than one person to hospital and return to pick them up.”

Volunteer coordinator, Stuart Stanford said: “It will provide an essential service for people in Framlingham and surrounding villages to get to hospital.

“It gives us an opportunity to take more than one person at a time and is fully wheelchair accessible.”

Billy Morton, of Community Action Suffolk, which worked closely with Hour Community in helping establish the service, said: “The criteria for non-emergency patient transport excludes a lot of people who were previously entitled. Framlingham had a vision of helping solve that problem.

“We didn’t want it to impinge on any other services and received good advice from Suffolk County Council’s passenger department on that front.

“It’s a pre-booked service, so people can’t hop on and hop off. It’s also a not-for-profit service, so all the funds will go into running the bus.”

The scheme is on the lookout for extra volunteer drivers, who will be given full training for the role.

To find out more about becoming a driver, or to enquire about booking transport with the service, call 01728 440 511.

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