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Patient Transport – Survey 2018

Our survey findings

Throughout August 2018, we asked Disabled and older people to complete a short survey about their experiences of trying to access patient transport services. We particularly wanted to know what criteria they were being assessed against, how fair they felt this assessment process was, and ultimately whether those with a genuine medical need were getting access to vital patient transport services.

We received 108 responses to the survey. Whilst this is not enough to draw statistically significant conclusions about the overall state of patient transport services across London, our survey revealed shocking stories of Disabled and older people left feeling “desperate”, “a burden” and “humiliated” after being denied patient transport.

We believe that our survey results represent a drop in the ocean when it comes to Disabled and older peoples’ experiences of accessing patient transport services. There are many people out there who we weren’t able to reach with our survey and who haven’t contacted our Advice Line who continue to be let down.

Which hospitals are the worst?

There were 24 different hospitals where respondents reported that they were denied patient transport. The top three most reported hospitals (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.

Hospitals where multiple respondents said they were found ineligible for patient transport (this list only includes hospitals mentioned by two or more respondents):

Name of Hospital NHS Trust Number of respondents
Royal Free Hospital Royal Free NHS Foundation Trust 8
Barnet General Hospital 4
Chase Farm Hospital 4
King’s College Hospital King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust 3
The National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust 2
Homerton University Hospital Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust 2

Negative impact on patients

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.

  • “Desperate, anxious, humiliated – the questioning was aggressive” – Royal Free Hospital patient
  • “I felt very hurt. I have never abused the system” – Royal Free Hospital patient
  • “I felt stupid and they made me feel like I am a burden to everyone” – Barnet Hospital patient
The majority of those found ineligible felt that their health or personal safety was put at risk by having to make their own way to the hospital. For some it was impossible to make their own way to their appointments, leading to cancelled or missed appointments.
  • “A two and a half hour journey (each way), vomiting due to my chronic condition, exhaustion, increased anxiety” – Royal Free Hospital patient
  • “I fall often when in unfamiliar environments. I also suffer from a choking disorder and confusion, especially when under stress... For me the journey to the hospital is a huge undertaking and a very frightening prospect” – Chase Farm Hospital patient
  • “I cancelled all of my hospital appointments as no one seems to care” – Homerton University Hospital patient

Unfair assessment process

Most of those found ineligible were previously eligible for patient transport services. This suggests that recent changes in some hospitals’ assessment process or eligibility criteria might be filtering out people who should still have access to this service. The majority of all respondents – whether they were found eligible or not – were not aware they were being assessed for their eligibility for patient transport when they made contact to book the service. Many respondents did not feel this process was fair, rating the assessment process as either ‘somewhat unfair’ or ‘very unfair’.

Poor service

Although the primary purpose of our survey was to hear the stories of those denied patient transport we received lots of feedback from people who have been allowed to use patient transport only to find it of very poor quality.

Some of the key complaints from respondents using patient transport services were:
  • Not being allowed to have a carer accompany them on the transport
  • Missed appointments due to the late arrival of transport
  • Long waiting times for return trips from hospital
  • Being left alone during waiting times with no support
This shows that the quality of service patients receive even when they are found eligible is wholly inadequate.

Patients’ stories

Paul, Chase Farm Hospital

Paul’s patient transport was stopped because he has a Motability vehicle which he can drive. But Paul cannot walk more than a few steps and is unable to walk the distance from the car park to the hospital. When he tried, he collapsed in the hospital corridor.

A member of staff at the hospital asked, “What are you doing trying to walk? I’ll get a porter to take you in a wheelchair.”

But the hospital told him that the porters were only allowed to do this within the actual hospital building and they were not allowed to collect him from the car park and take him to the building.

Transport for All rang the porters’ office and they confirmed this was correct.

Without door-to-door patient transport services to take him safely to his appointments, it became impossible for Paul to get to the hospital.

John, Royal Free Hospital & Chase Farm Hospital

John is 86, has severe COPD and heart problems and is anaemic. He has a catheter due to prostate health problems and has his legs bandaged up.

John’s patient transport has been stopped by the Royal Free NHS Foundation Trust on the basis that he can get in and out of a taxi. Simply saying that you can get into a taxi is enough for the Trust to say you are ineligible for patient transport.

Although he can get in and out of one, John cannot walk to and from the taxi. The patient transport staff used to take him in a hospital wheelchair right from the transport to the appointment.

He does not have his own wheelchair and he can only walk a few steps and falls easily. If he did have a wheelchair, he would not be able to propel it himself. His daughter works full-time and is not always available to support him.

Since his patient transport has been stopped, he has cancelled some appointments, but as they are so important for his health care he has been forced to struggle by taxi to some. In these instances, he has had extreme difficulty walking from the taxi to the hospital. He holds onto the railings and finds it very dangerous.