An NHS boss says more patients need to make their own way to doctors appointments as non-emergency transport services struggle to meet increasing demand.
Non-emergency patient transport activity data provided by the Yorkshire Ambulance Service (YAS) has revealed the number of journeys in 2017/18 has increased by 10.6% compared to the previous year, with an average of 6,200 journeys per month.
People who are typically eligible for patient transport services (PTS) include those that have a medical condition which prevents them from getting to their appointment by any other means. However, after a rise in non-eligible people requesting on-demand transport to appointments, Jane Hawkard, chief officer at East Riding of Yorkshire CCG, said more needs to be done to sign-post patients to other means of transport to prevent a further strain on already stretched services.
She said: “People do demand transport as if it’s a right, and it’s not, we come across this every day and there’s probably just not enough clarity as a system about what we will provide and actually what people need to provide for themselves and I just think we’ve probably skirted round it quite a lot of the time and perhaps now is the time to come up with a system offer.
“We’re really clear with patients that really you do have to find your own way there.
“I know it’s a hard message but sometimes it’s just better to be really clear rather than just trying and trying when we know actually we can’t do it. We can only provide so much, and people have to be realistic.”
The East Riding Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) currently does not have a commissioned patient transport service in place for non-emergency patients who fail to meet the eligibility criteria.
Transport is often arranged at short notice and on an ad-hoc basis, at an annual cost of around £50,000.
Colin Walker, transport services manager at East Riding Council, suggested that a more planned approach is needed in what is a predominantly rural area as there isn’t currently the capacity to deliver an on-demand patient transport service (PTS).
He recommended that a joint task and finish group be set up between the CCG and East Riding Council to consider how signposting for non-eligible patients from YAS to other appropriate non-emergency transport provision can be developed, implemented and funded.
He said: “If such a mechanism isn’t established there is a danger that there could be escalation of people’s conditions if they don’t manage to access the care that they need. The position at the moment is that outside of what the CCG commissions with YAS for eligible transport through PTS there is no other commissioned services in place to meet the sort of needs that may well arise when the eligibility criteria are significantly tightened.”