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Patient Transport Campaign

Patient transport services are letting Disabled and older people down

Over the past several months, Transport for All’s Advice Line has received an increasing number of calls from Disabled and older people who were denied patient transport despite previously being eligible.

At the moment, a lack of clarity within the guidance provided by the Department of Health and Social Care has allowed individual NHS Trusts to implement their own eligibility criteria. In some instances, the eligibility criteria used by hospitals is not robust enough to ensure that all Disabled and older people with a real need can access the service. This has led to many people being turned down for vital patient transport when they need it the most, sometimes in spite of previously being eligible at the very same hospital.

The issue was recently highlighted by a BBC London report (Please note that unfortunately the BBC has not made subtitles available for this video) in which the Royal Free NHS Trust apologised for failing to carry out its own patient transport assessment process properly.

This campaign comes three years after our Sick of Waiting campaign, which highlighted multiple issues with patient transport services overall, including long waiting times, poor quality of service, and problems with eligibility.

Our survey reveals shocking experiences of patient transport

In August 2018 we carried out a survey to find out more about peoples’ experiences of trying to access patient transport services. The survey revealed shocking stories of Disabled and older people left feeling “desperate”, “a burden” and “humiliated” after being denied patient transport.

In the survey, the top three most reported hospitals for denying patient transport (Royal Free, Barnet and Chase Farm) are all run by the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust. This highlights a significant problem with the way that the Royal Free Trust manages its patient transport services.

Being found ineligible for patient transport had a profoundly negative impact on respondents, particularly with regards to their mental health and wellbeing. Without accessible transport options available to medical appointments, Disabled and older people are left in a difficult and frustrating situation. Of the respondents found not eligible for patient transport, the majority felt their health or personal safety was put at risk by having to find their own way to hospital.

Even more appalling was the fact that the majority of all respondents – whether they were found eligible or not – were not aware that they were being assessed for patient transport when they made contact to book the service. This means that many patients are not being offered the chance to fully explain their need for transport before being told they are ineligible.

The approach by some hospitals appears to be to rule people out on broad criteria, such as the ability to get into a taxi, without taking into account the full impact of an individual’s impairment. It’s no wonder that one respondent told us that booking patient transport is “a traumatising experience whereby you feel you are being put on trial and that you literally have to beg for transport”.

You can read our full survey findings by clicking here.

Through our survey and our Advice Line we have also gathered case studies that highlight how unfair patient transport practices affected peoples’ lives and mental and physical wellbeing. Click here to read these individual stories.

We demand fair patient transport services

We are now writing to the Department of Health and Social Care and to patient transport services at hospitals across London to highlight the seriousness of this issue and to call for immediate improvements to the way that people are assessed for patient transport.

We believe that everyone with a legitimate medical need should have access to patient transport services.

Clearly this is not happening in every case at the moment, often putting Disabled and older patients’ health at risk, therefore we are making the following demands.

For the Department of Health and Social Care to:

1) Consult with Disabled and older people to better understand the issues they face when accessing patient transport services and how to best support their needs, before designing any new guidance, eligibility criteria and assessment questions

2) Review and update the guidance on eligibility for patient transport. This guidance should be as clear and specific as possible about who is eligible and who is not, and provide a standard that is the same across the country. To address our concerns over what we know to be currently happening, this guidance should clearly state:

3) Outline an assessment procedure that ensures patients are aware of their assessment beginning in the first place

4) Provide a standard series of questions for patient transport providers to use when assessing patients for transport services that respect the eligibility criteria outlined above

For individual hospitals and NHS Trusts to:

1) Immediately review and updatetheir eligibility criteria for access to patient transport services and ensure that they are in line with the suggestions we have made to the Department of Health and Social Care (see above)

2) Immediately review and updatetheir assessment process policies to ensure that patients are aware of their assessment beginning in the first place

3) Ensure that a clinician familiar with the patient is involved in the assessment process to guarantee that a full understanding of the patient’s needs have been considered

4) Regularly monitor the effectiveness of their eligibility and assessment processes to ensure that no one with a legitimate need is being denied patient transport. This should take the form of regular consultation with Disabled and older people who use or have tried to use patient transport services

Get involved in the campaign

We need your support to spread the word about our concerns about eligibility for patient transport and there is lots you can do to help: