Patient transport criticism from man awaiting operation

A Seahouses patient awaiting an operation has challenged a health boss to get from his village to Hexham Hospital on public transport.

It comes after the Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) introduced new national guidelines last month which mean strict criteria has to be met before a patient is eligible for transport.

One of many patients affected in the rural north of the county, Mr Vickers of Seahouses – who has surgery scheduled for a ruptured Achilles tendon – says he cannot physically reach his appointments on time without the service.

Journey times to his appointments at Hexham Hospital by bus would take in excess of four hours.

Even then it is impossible to reach earlier appointments on time; or get back the same day following later appointments.

A taxi would cost him £120, plus £10 an hour waiting time, or £80 for a one-way trip.

A spokeswoman for NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Groups said: “All new patient transport bookings are subject to a short assessment.

“The purpose of this assessment is to make sure that the people who require ambulance services are prioritised and that the NHS is making the best use of the funding it has available.

“This means that we can free up emergency services as these appointments are planned using dedicated patient transport vehicles and means that patients don’t have to wait as long.

“We understand that this can be a frustrating experience and some people who have previously used this service may find that they are no longer entitled to patient transport.

“If this is the case, then the booking service is offering information and advice on alternative forms of transport.”