A disabled woman has urged anyone who has been refused patient transport to hospital to appeal after winning her case.
Caroline Phillips, from Catterick Garrison, suffers from a rare condition know as Guillain-Barré syndrome, meaning she has complex health needs and needs to attend regular appointments at six different hospitals around North Yorkshire and Teesside.
She is unable to drive due to her medical conditions and previously received free transport to hospital via the NHS patient transport service.
However, following a change in policy in October she was refused free transport to hospital.
This would have meant her relying on friends and family or having to take buses.
Caroline discovered it was almost impossible for her to take the bus to the majority of appointments due to the lack of services, distances to hospitals she attends, including York, Hartlepool and James Cook, and her health problems which mean she has to use a walking aid and suffers severe pain on long journeys.
The 54-year-old said she was distraught after being told she would not be able to use the patient transport service.
However, she discovered she could appeal and has now been told she is eligible after all.
Caroline is now urging others to appeal if they have been refused, adding that she was told she was initially refused after saying she could use local buses, but she had not advised the cal handler that she needed a walking aid to access these services.
She said: “It makes you ill just trying to sort out how to get to appointments.
“They initially told me I would have to get a taxi and then try and claim it back but it’s £75 each way to Hartlepool.”
Caroline, who has previously worked for the ambulance service, added: “I’m delighted that my appeal has been accepted and would urge anyone else in similar circumstances to go down this route try to appeal.
“The man I spoke to was really nice. He said the changes had been introduced because people were using the ambulance service as a taxi service.
“They were willing to listen to my circumstances and help if they could.”
NHS bosses have been accused of failing some of the most needy patients by tightening the criteria for who can use patient transport services.
Hambleton , Richmondshire and Whitby CCG chief nurse Gill Collinson said: “The CCG has followed national guidance and associated principles which were considered prior to introducing the refreshed application of the criteria from 15 October 2018.
“The process has been introduced across the wider North Yorkshire area and is being regularly monitored.
“Materials to include patient information leaflets have also been distributed across the area and are available on our website.
“There is an appeals process in place which Yorkshire Ambulance Service call handlers are encouraged to share with any caller wishing to take this forward.”
Anyone who has been refused patient transport services can appeal by calling 0300 330 2000.