Attending hospital can be a worrying time for many patients which is why we want to make sure that their journey to and from appointments is as smooth as possible. This national review of non-emergency patient transport will listen and act on concerns raised by patients.Simon Stevens NHS chief executive
The chief executive of the NHS in England has today launched the first national review into non-emergency patient transport. The announcement was prompted by a report 'produced by Healthwatch, Age UK and Kidney Care UK. The report takes into account the views and experiences of over 45,000 people.
Age UK estimate that 1.45 million older people find it difficult or very difficult to get to their healthcare appointments and we at Kidney Care UK found that transport has consistently been reported as an area for considerable improvement by more than 13,000 kidney patients through the Kidney Patient REported Experience Measures (Kidney PREM) study.
The collective voice of all those supported by Healthwatch, Age UK and Kidney Care UK have been brought together in the report ‘There and back’ which has been developed in conversation with NHS England and NHS Improvement to underpin this review.
One of the biggest challenges with transport and the NHS is that services don’t currently capture enough information to help them make good decisions about the commissioning or delivery of support. Where services that are outside of its direct control, like bus routes and timetables, the NHS is not routinely looking at publicly available data to understand how the options available impact how people can access healthcare.
In May 2019, Healthwatch wrote to all 191 Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) who are responsible for purchasing Non-Emergency Patient Transport (NEPTS) under the Freedom of Information Act and asked them for data on how many people were using the service and how many people had been refused help between 2015/16 and 2018/19. In total 107 of the 191 CCGs in England responded (56%). Roughly half of these were unable to provide any of the information requested, mostly stating that they do not collect it. However, 61 did provide either all or some of the information requested. Even though only a limited number of CCGs were able to respond, the data they provided did suggest some concerning trends which we believe require the NHS to investigate further.
Imelda Redmond, National Director, Healthwatch England said,
“Patients attending health and care services are not ‘packages to be delivered’, they are people with individual needs that must be considered as health services implement plans for care. If people are to truly be at the centre of how services are designed, then transport is a key element of how services and peoples care needs can be aligned and integrated at a local level. As the report shows good transport is not a nice to have but an essential part of people’s treatment. We welcome the review announced by Simon Stevens and we look forward to working with NHS England, and our partners, to ensure the experiences of people play a central role in shaping the outcome.”
Caroline Abraham Charity Director Age UK added,
“This isn’t a new issue - in fact we have been campaigning for a full review of the system since 2017 - but it doesn’t have to be this way. There are pockets of good practice already happening across the country which we can learn from and build on.”
Fiona Loud, Policy Director for Kidney Care UK said
“Healthcare transport is long overdue for review and improvement. If you are one of the 25,000 people having haemodialysis at a unit then it is likely that you will rely on patient transport to get to your vital treatment. The uncertainty of provision is deeply distressing for those whose life depends on getting to and from hospital. Future collaborations should involve patients and patient organisations to ensure that the shape of transport is patient-centred.
"We consistently hear from patients that transport to and from dialysis is one of the most important issues affecting their quality of life. We’re delighted to work with Healthwatch and Age UK and believe our guidance provides a framework to work from to enable provision of a better service for patients and the NHS.”
The Healthwatch report can be found here.