Suffolk: Progress in hospital transport as groups reassured over free lifts


COMMUNITY transport providers hope the risk of sick people missing vital hospital appointments has been reduced following crunch talks with NHS chiefs.

We recently revealed concerns for people who had been refused hospital transport after the NHS tightened its criteria for providing patients with free lifts.

Suffolk Community Transport – an umbrella organisation supporting the county’s 19 individual operators – claimed its members in towns such as Sudbury, Haverhill, Felixstowe, Stowmarket and Southwold had seen a huge increase in the demand for their services as a result of the changes, and some were pushed to “breaking point”.

But now the group’s managers have met representatives from the west and east Suffolk clinical commissioning groups, and they believe progress has been made towards improving the situation.

The transport group’s quality, standards and training manager Yvonne Chappell, who attended the meeting, said: “We fully understand the NHS has to monitor the service it offers so it is not taken advantage of by those who have other means of affordable transport available to them.

“But we were concerned many people were not receiving the access to hospital transport they were eligible for. Also, the increase in demand on our members put them under huge pressure and that is why we called for an urgent meeting.”

According to Ms Chappell, the group has now been given assurances that a number of measures have been put in place to rectify the recent problems. She added: “We were informed 50% of patients that were originally refused transport have been reassessed and will now receive the transport which they are entitled to.

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“Also, representatives from the clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) have agreed to visit any of our member organisations who are experiencing a high demand for hospital transport to see how they can support them.”

A spokesman for the NHS in Suffolk described the meeting as “very productive”. He said: “We agreed on the importance of providing patients with as much clear information as possible on assessments for free NHS funded transport and facts about other options, if it is not medically needed.

“The CCGs offered to meet with any individual provider to understand particular local issues. If a patient feels they had been unfairly declined access to free NHS-funded transport, they should contact the NHS Patient Advice and Liaison Service on 0800 389 6819 to appeal against the decision.”