Councillors call on health bosses to change free patient transport to hospital criteria “immediately”

Photo: Graham Richardson.

Councillors have urged health bosses to immediately change the criteria for who can get free transport to hospital.

The request comes as it emerges that more Richmondshire patients are struggling to get to vital appointments following a change in the rules.

NHS Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) told councillors last month that they would change the criteria which determines who can get free transport to hospital after patients were refused help following a policy change last year.

The change in policy seemingly took no account on where the patient lived and whether they had access to public transport to get them to their appointment.

Community leaders were also concerned that little account was taken of patients’ health problems which might impact on their ability to make the journey unaided.

The new policy resulted in one elderly patient in upper Wensleydale, who has cancer and eye disease, missing vital appointments after initially being refused help.

It had been hoped the changes would ensure patients in the district without other means of getting to hospital would get the help they needed.

However, it has emerged this week that patients are still being refused help to get to hospital when they have no other options.

One elderly Bishopdale resident, who has no car and suffers from severe  health problems, was refused help getting to appointments at both James Cook and the Friarage hospitals.

It was only when charity workers got involved that her application for help was eventually accepted, but it became clear during their involvement that questions on rurality and access to public transport were still not being asked.

Julian Pinches, from Leyburn Good Neighbours, which helped the patient through the appeals process, said he asked the call handler during that process how many appeals had been made from the Richmondshire area, and was told 20.

Of these, all had been upheld, Julian was told.

He said: “How can the PTS and the CCG continue to believe that their algorithm is fit for purpose, when every appeal that gets to the CCG is upheld?

“It is obvious to me that there must be many patients who have contacted the PTS and then given up.”

This and other cases prompted members of North Yorkshire County Council to put forward a motion calling for the criteria to be changed immediately when they met at county hall on Wednesday night.

The motion, which was given unanimous backing, was seconded by upper Dales county councillor John Blackie.

He said: “Until distance, rurality and public transport go back into the initial assessment matrix, the peace of mind of elderly and vulnerable patients in the rural areas of the county, miles from the hospitals that serve them, will remain in a state of high anxiety.

The CCG response is not good enough – it is simply unacceptable.”

Richmondshire Today has contacted the CCG for a response on this issue and is awaiting a full reply.

It is understood health bosses are working on two additional questions that will be asked of patients when they are accessed for eligibility for patient transport services.

These questions will be on rurality and the distance the patient will have to travel to hospital.

It is understood the questions have been drafted and are with Yorkshire Ambulance Service, which administers the patient transport service, for testing.

1 Comment

  1. I think it’s absolutely disgraceful, we are now down to basically 1 hospital to cover a vast area and in the meantime we are sending aid to India, Malawi, China. we need to look after our problems

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