Patient transport service in Norfolk and Suffolk sees reduction

A new central point for screening who is eligible for free patient transport in Norfolk and Suffolk has seen a 30pc reduction in patients getting access to this service.

The new Patient Transport Clinical Assessment and Advice Centre, managed by the East of England Ambulance Service, took over the inquiries and booking for Patient Transport Services (PTS) in September.

The centre provides a telephone-based booking service and assesses whether patients in the NHS Norfolk and NHS Suffolk areas are entitled to free patient transport, for example to help them get to hospital for an appointment.

Early results indicate a 30pc reduction of patients being eligible for free transport.

The ambulance service has successfully provided PTS services for the two counties for a number of years but the move brought the management of the service under its remit too.

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Prior to the new service, each NHS trust or GP managed this process.

The non-emergency transport is for patients with a medical need. In 2010-11 PTS carried out more than 300,000 passenger journeys in Norfolk and Suffolk.

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Lyn Reynolds, associate director of primary care operations for the ambulance service, said: 'Patients who are eligible for transport are still getting it. The guidelines regarding patient transport eligibility criteria have not changed.

'However in the past individual GP practices or clinics decided whether a patient met the criteria. Now this is being administered under a new, more robust system with requests for transport handled by a central unit. It means the criteria can be applied consistently and equitably across Norfolk and Suffolk PCTs.'

Ian Ayres, executive director for delivery at NHS Norfolk and Waveney, said: 'Whilst it is early days, we are pleased that we now have in place a system which is fair for all patients. This is a good example of how we are trying to make the NHS more efficient, freeing up resources which can be better spent on patient care elsewhere.'

Patients eligible for the transport service include those who have a medical condition that requires the skills or support of PTS staff on or after the journey, and/or where it would be detrimental to the patient's condition or recovery if they were to travel by other means.

It is also used when a patient's medical condition impacts on their mobility to such an extent that they would be unable to access health care.

The distance to be travelled and frequency of travel should also be taken into account and what it a 'reasonable' journey time is also defined on a local basis.

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