Two bus services running to James Cook Hospital in Middlesbrough are to be cancelled, increasing concerns about patients getting to hospital appointments.
The X80 and X89 services from Leeming and Northallerton to Middlesbrough, via the Friarage Hospital and Stokelsey, will stop from November 26, North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) has confirmed.
Community leaders say the service, which used low floor easy access buses, was used by people from across Hambleton and Richmondshire to get to hospital.
In a plea for help to NYCC Integrated Passenger Transport department, Jim Forrest and Paul Fisher, Hambleton Over Fifties Forum and Northallerton Area Over Fifties Forum, have questioned how people are supposed to get to hospital once the services have been cancelled.
They point out that although there are other bus services running, they take longer and can mean a long wait for a connecting bus in Stokesley.
They say these journeys are long and unsuitable for elderly patients especially in winter.
They state: “What are these people to do?
“Revisions to hospital patient transport services (PTS) means that many people who were able to get free transport to hospital do not now qualify and voluntary schemes that are available will be stretched and people still have to pay a price that is unaffordable on a regular basis.
“We still await information about the future of the Friarage.
“This news about the loss of a bus service must be factored into any decisions, as it is now even more vital that we have a fully functioning hospital in Northallerton.
“Super safe services in Middlesbrough are all very well but you have to be able to get there to use them.”
The bus service cancellations come after Hambleton Richmondshire and Whitby CCG tightened the rules for who could receive free patient transport service (PTS) to hospital for outpatient appointments.
Richmondshire county councillor John Blackie has proposed a motion which would call on the CCG to address concerns over the changes.
He said: “The travel times quoted now the buses from Leeming to Middlesbrough are to be cancelled are around 1.5 hours – 2 hours from Northallerton to the James Cook.
“You need to add on 2.5 hours each way for the journey from Hawes to Northallerton.
“In short this would make a journey by public transport from Hawes to the James Cook four hours to 4.5 hours each way in duration.
“The earliest you could get to the James Cook is around 1pm and you would not be able to get back to Hawes until the next day.
“Many other communities in North Yorkshire will be in the same situation.”