What do we mean by door to door?
Door-to-door transport refers to services offered by a variety of organisations that transport disabled and older people directly from their homes to a secondary and final local destination. Unlike taxis and PHVs, these services are subsidised or even free to use, and limited in scope, providing a limited number of trips within a certain area, and sometimes to specific places. Encompassed in this definition is community transport services, London Dial-a-Ride, and patient transport services.
Due to the inaccessibility of many public transport services, many local governments and community organisations offer door-to-door services for disabled and older people. These include Dial-a-Ride services and similar community transport services. These services are free to use, and provide transport for essential trips such as grocery shopping, social occasions, and wellbeing opportunities.
The availability of these services is different from county to county, sometimes even council to council. Whilst there are online services such as the Community Transport Association and a Gov.uk webpage to help people find their local service, it can be difficult to know where to find this information in a non-digital format.
As community transport services are run by volunteer organisations or local authorities, they are underfunded and under extreme pressure. Many community transport services have been shut down in recent years due to lack of funding, making it harder to make these essential journeys.
Dial-a-Ride offers a free door to door service for disabled and older Londoners in receipt of certain benefits, or those over the age of 85. Users of Dial-a-Ride have identified the service as a “lifeline” service, connecting them to vital social and wellbeing activities.
However, the quality of Dial-a-Ride has been noted to have taken a steep decline since the pandemic, with the number of bookings members are able to make having been reduced, and services often being either late or not showing up for confirmed bookings at all. It has also been noted that members have had to wait for up to 40 minutes on the phone to make and confirm their bookings, via a telephone number that charges by the minute.
Patient transport services
Patient transport services are responsible for transporting people to and from hospital appointments. NHS trusts contract transport providers who organise and provide transport for their patients. Examples of people who are eligible for patient transport are:
- People whose condition means they need additional medical support during their journey
- People who find it difficult to walk
- Parents or guardians of children who are being transported
Each NHS Trust has its own procedure for arranging transport. Many trusts require either a GP or hospital doctor to authorise the booking of transport.
Patient transport services do not exist for every hospital, making its usage somewhat of a “postcode lottery”. Given that community transport services such as dial a ride do not offer trips to medical appointments, hospitals and local authority day centres, this means that many people do not have a way of attending their appointments other than taxi.
Further, patient transport services have been noted to be unreliable, ranging from being a few minutes late to not turning up at all. This can be extremely distressing, as it often results in missing long awaited appointments, which often cannot be rescheduled for several months.
Our research and work on door to door transport
Campaign success as Deputy Mayor announces Dial-a-Ride improvements
The Deputy Mayor of London for Transport, Seb Dance, has written to us to set out a number of improvements to the Dial-a-Ride service, following our joint campaigning work with AgeUK London.
Dial-a-Ride: From Door to More
We teamed up with AgeUK London to investigate the experiences of Dial-a-Ride users, including the importance of Dial-a-Ride as well as improvements that could be made to the service.
Patient Transport is failing patients
Our Sick of Waiting report lays bare the inadequacies of Patient Transport. We're calling on NHS Trusts to set minimum standards of service in transport contracts.