Over the past several months, Transport for All (TfA) have received an increasing number of calls to our Advice Line 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.
In August, the BBC covered the issue. In this video, the Royal Free NHS Trust apologised for failing to carry out its own patient transport assessment process properly for the specific case mentioned. Watch the recent BBC London report. (Please note that unfortunately, the BBC has not made subtitles available for this video)
Poor and unfair assessment process
In August 2018 we carried out a survey to find out more about peoples’ experiences of trying to access patient transport services. Through this we have gathered a number of case studies that demonstrate how unfair patient transport eligibility criteria affected peoples’ lives and mental and physical wellbeing.
- “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 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
Responses to our survey indicated that many people felt that their health or personal safety was put at risk by having to make their own way to hospital after being denied patient transport. People reported feeling “desperate”, “a burden” and “humiliated” after being interrogated by call centre staff about their need for patient transport. This is unacceptable.
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.
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.
We are therefore demanding that the Department of Health and Social Care update and improve their guidance on patient transport eligibility criteria so that it doesn’t put Disabled and older patients’ health at risk. It is clear that the current guidance is not good enough.
We are also calling for hospitals and NHS Trusts to make immediate changes to the way that they assess people for transport.
What we are doing next
We have been supporting individual patient transport cases that come through our Advice Line and we will continue to do so. If you feel that you have been unfairly turned down for patient transport please get in touch with our Advice Line.
We are now in the process of 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.
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:
- Tell us your story: We want to hear about your experiences accessing patient transport services. Please send them to joshua [at] transportforall [dot] org [dot] uk
- Challenge your case: If you have recently been denied patient transport, especially if you were previously eligible, contact our Advice Line for help and support to appeal the decision
- Use the hashtag #PatientTransportForUs on Twitter to spread the message
- Become a member of Transport for All or donate today.
John is 86, has severe COPD and heart problems and is anaemic. He has a catheter due to prostrate 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 healthcare 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.