The NHS is promising a fairer patient transport system following a national review.
All people going to get dialysis on the NHS would get transport provided or reimbursed under the changes, while a range of criteria for people with other needs has been proposed by NHS England (NHSE).
A campaign by Healthwatch England and other national charities prompted NHSE to launch a review in 2019, after they said eligibility for non-emergency patient transport varied across England or was unfair. NHSE’s review report, published on 2 August, said the new system aimed to be ‘consistently more responsive, fair and sustainable’.
The public now has until 25 October 2021 to give feedback on the eligibility criteria, with a view to the changes starting to take effect from 1 April 2022.
Who would qualify for patient transport?
NHSE proposes you would qualify for help getting to or from hospital if you had a:
- Medical need (e.g. need oxygen during the journey)
- Cognitive or sensory need (e.g. dementia and no carer to bring you)
- Significant mobility need (e.g. wheelchair user without access to other transport)
- Need to travel to a dialysis unit (All people going to in-centre dialysis would have transport provided or be rapidly reimbursed for costs of own transport and parking).
- Safeguarding concern (The person must be overseen on the journey to stay safe)
- Wider needs (Authorised staff would have discretion to arrange transport for on individual circumstances).
"These new proposals show a real determination to improve patient care,” said Fiona Loud, Policy Director of Kidney Care UK. “National standards, including waiting times, will be monitored and published, providing a real opportunity to improve the day-to-day experience for people who have to make over 300 journeys a year to get to and from their life-maintaining treatments.”
Patient transport is expected to become the responsibility of integrated care systems (regional planning and funding bodies) from April 2022. Local areas will be able to decide the best form of transport ranging from non-emergency specialist ambulances through to private cars driven by approved volunteers.
If people are not eligible for NHS patient transport, they may be able to get help paying for travel to and from appointments from an improved Healthcare Travel Cost Scheme. Costs would be reimbursed no longer than 30 days after people make claims, compared to 90 days now.