Suffolk: MP calls for leniency on hospital transport

South Suffolk MP Tim Yeo

South Suffolk MP Tim Yeo - Credit: PA

SOME decisions being made by NHS Suffolk about who qualifies for free hospital transport have been described as “harsh” by a local MP.

Member for South Suffolk, Tim Yeo, said adherence to criteria for assessing patients for lifts to and from hospital across the county had gone from being “too lenient” to the other extreme.

Suffolk Independent Living co-ordinator Isla Kaye recently contacted Mr Yeo to ask for help after a member of the organisation’s Sudbury group, Ted Taylor, was refused hospital transport. This is despite him suffering from a condition that has left him blind and with restricted mobility. Mr Taylor says he has missed out on vital support and treatment since the NHS introduced a single point of assessment for hospital transport in 2011.

Another patient, Jim White, who needs to attend regular appointments at Papworth Hospital in Cambridgeshire for his heart condition also contacted the EADT because he has been unable to find alternative transport after being turned down by NHS Suffolk.

Last night, Mr Yeo said he agreed that decisions about who qualifies for hospital transport should be made at county level rather than in Whitehall.

He added: “In my view, the primary care trust in Suffolk was rather more generous in paying for hospital transport than it should have been and I understand why that had to come to an end. But the result of that has been to deny hospital transport to some people who really need it, which in turn has lead to some cases of hardship.

“I don’t believe there is any purpose served by going to the (health) Minister over this because you can’t have a national blueprint that will be relevant to every county. However, the system allows individual counties some discretion and I would urge NHS Suffolk to exercise that and show some leniency where appropriate.”

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A spokesman for NHS Suffolk said since September 2011, national guidelines issued by the Department of Health had been applied to ensure that those patients who were eligible for free NHS funded transport were given it. He added: “If a patient feels they have been unfairly declined access to free NHS-funded transport, they should contact the NHS Suffolk Patient Advice and Liaison Service on 0800 389 6819 to appeal against the decision.”

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