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Painful Journeys for veterans

The Joining Forces programme has now ended

Joining Forces was an Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust supported programme in partnership with SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity. It was delivered by 12 local projects across England by local Age UKs and SSAFA branches. After 3 successful years, the programme has now ended. Many of the pages in this section will still be useful for information and advice. Alternatively, you can look at the relevant sections of the Age UK website.

For most of us just having a hospital appointment is enough to worry about. Imagine having to make a long and complicated journey alone, in pain and worried about not getting there in time. And that's to say nothing of the equally lengthy journey back, which may be in cold and dark conditions.

We asked older people to tell us about their experiences of travelling to hospital appointments. Thousands told us they really struggle to travel to routine appointments, with older people and their families facing three key issues:

  1. Long and uncomfortable public transport journeys to and from hospital. Many older people have no option but to rely on public transport to get to their hospital appointments. For some, this can mean difficult and uncomfortable journeys, involving multiple changes.
  2. Patient transport services are of variable quality. Many services run late, or journeys take much longer than they should. Not everyone is eligible for free hospital transport, with veterans, people with limited mobility and those who are very unwell, among others, finding themselves ineligible.
  3. Extra costs to older people and their families. Older people may be forced to use expensive taxis, or be totally reliant on family or friends to drive them to hospital even though they would much rather be able to get there under their own steam.

Thanks to campaigners adding their voices, the NHS has announced it will review patient transport so that older people are given the care and support they need.

"We have to wait for the bus coming outside the hospital... standing about in the cold."

We heard from thousands of older people who struggle with travelling to hospital. They include 80-year-old veteran Peter, who had to spend £720 on taxis over 18 months because there's no direct bus from where he lives.

The system for getting older people to hospital isn't fit-for-purpose.

  • Transporting older people to and from hospital costs the NHS and the Government millions of pounds a year
  • Yet who gets help and how good that help is seems to be a postcode lottery.
  • Currently, many older people are experiencing anxiety, exhaustion and distress getting to their hospital appointments.
  • Every older person deserves to get to their hospital appointments safely without it being a struggle.

The NHS review is a step towards stopping painful journeys being part of life for older people.

Who will make it to hospital first?

Peter took on Sam in a race to see who could get to hospital first.

Want to know more?

Our campaign report explores the issue and explains why getting to hospital appointments is a major issue for older people.

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Last updated: Jun 16 2020

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