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Sick of Waiting

25 June 2014

Age UK London have joined with a number of other organisations to launch the campaign 'Sick of Waiting', around the issue of patient transport. Lianna Etkind, Campaigns and Outreach Co-ordinator at Transport for All tells us more.

Patient transport isn’t working for patients.

Patients missing their hospital appointments…because of patient transport. 


Patients waiting several hours to be taken home after their appointment…because of patient transport.


Patients unable to use buses or trains….deemed ineligible for patient transport.


These are just a few of the reports we’ve heard from people who’ve been let down by hospital transport. While some hospitals work hard to offer excellent transport, it’s clear that for many, patient transport, designed to ensure that everyone can access healthcare, isn’t working. 


Sick of Waiting is the campaign for reliable, accessible patient transport for everyone who needs it. The way that patient transport is commissioned has recently changed, with Clinical Commissioning Groups holding more power. So there’s never been a better time to tell hospital trusts that they must guarantee that patient transport works for patients. 


Patient transport is often contracted out to private companies such as G4S, MPS and DHL. But with big discrepancies between transport in different hospitals, we need common standards to ensure all trusts provide a quality service.


Minimum standards in contracting

We’ve joined up with the National Kidney Federation (NKF), Age UK London, The Greater London Forum for Older People, Healthwatch Newham and London Region National Pensioners Convention. We want to see minimum standards on things like waiting time and eligibility criteria written into patient transport contracts. We want to ensure that hospital Trusts have the power to hold to account the private companies who deliver patient transport.


But we can’t do it without you.


We want to hear your stories of patient transport. 

Have you or a relative or friend used patient transport in the last year?

How did you find it? How long did you have to wait to be picked up? How was the driver and the discharge lounge? 


Good or bad, we would like your reports of patient transport. We will use this evidence to help convince Trusts that patient transport contracts must put patients’ needs first. Please answer our very short survey. You can fill it online, at .


You can phone us, on 020 7737 2339, and answer the questions over the phone. If you are part of a group of older people, we could post you some surveys to hand out.


Excellence in patient transport

It isn’t all gloom and doom: there are examples of NHS staff going the extra mile for patients. We were very impressed to hear of Guys and St Thomas’s, where a Patient Transport Forum brings together patient transport users, nurses and patient transport staff to monitor the service and look at what can be improved.


At Queens Hospital in Romford, there’s a wealth of information in the hospital foyer about transport – maps, timetables, and information about how to claim back travel costs for people on low incomes. We think that more hospitals should make it this easy for people to plan their journeys to appointments. 


And a number of hospitals ensure that patients have tea and coffee on offer in the patient transport lounge while they wait to be picked up after their appointment.


Languishing for hours 

But equally, those hospitals which are leaving patients languishing for hours after their appointment need to sort this out. We have heard from patients who’ve had to pay huge amounts for taxis, because they were afraid to rely on patient transport. We’ve heard from people who have had the driver refuse to transport their wheelchair. We’ve heard from people who’ve had to write off their whole day, for the sake of a fifteen minute doctor’s appointment.


Together with Freedom of Information requests we are making to the Trusts, we’re compiling a report on patient transport in the capital, which we’ll present to CCGs and Trusts, asking them to ensure patient transport meets patients’ needs.


We’ll be having an Accountability Assembly in the autumn, at a central location to be announced, where members will put their questions directly to Trust managers, and we’ll present our Patient Transport Charter. We haven’t set a date yet, but we’ll keep you updated.


With your help, we can win this 

The good news is that there is precedence  for Trusts listening to patients and improving their transport procurement process. In 2013, David Hencke, a journalist, was appalled when his wife, a stroke survivor, was left waiting for more than five hours to be taken home after her appointment.


He took this up with the West Hertfordshire hospital trust, asking them to strengthen their management of the patient transport contract. The result? 


Medical Services, the company which holds the contract for transport services,  will now contract some patient ambulance services to a taxi firm where people are mobile enough to get in a taxi, so people who aren’t mobile enough to get in a taxi will get priority ambulance treatment. They’ll also review ambulance rosters to put more on at the weekend and employ an additional member of staff at Watford, reducing the strain on overstretched staff. And West Herts Hospital Trust are changing the procurement of new contracts. This includes financial penalties for breach of contract – all patients not to wait for more than two hours is written into current contract.


A great win for patients that showed that with persistence, these contracts can be improved for patients.


David said: “Far too many people are happy just to grumble rather than complain if the NHS service is not up to scratch. this shows if you do complain you can get something done.”


Please help us complain and report the failings constructively. Together we can win these improvements, so ill people no longer have to wait for hours on end to travel to the healthcare they need. 


Gordon Deuchars