North East Ambulance Service’ non-emergency Patient Transport Service provides a vital link in the treatment chain for people with a medical need, who would not otherwise be able to get to hospital appointments. With a 90.7% satisfaction rating across the North East we know the service is greatly valued by those who use it, but what became clear to Healthwatch Northumberland from feedback and monitoring information is that people in Northumberland have experienced problems actually getting to the service via the booking procedure – many only securing a service when they appeal after first being turned down.
Our initial analysis showed:
- 4000+ people per year being declared ineligible for patient transport when they are later found to be eligible through the appeals process.
- Around 5000 people per year are being declared ineligible for patient transport and not appealing
- Almost 75% of ineligibility decisions appealed through the Patient Transport Appeals Team are overturned
- Around 50% of ineligibility decisions are overturned due to distance where distance is not part of the initial eligibility criteria
- The trend in Northumberland was worsening relative to other areas
This suggested to us that Northumberland patients are experiencing additional stress and anxiety by being put through a seemingly unnecessary appeals process, while others are missing out by not appealing even though they are eligible.
We decided we needed more insight on the transparency and application of eligibility criteria. We talked to North east Ambulance Service, NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group, North of England Commissioning Support Unit and North of Tyne Patient Advice and Liaison Service. Each organisation engaged with the issues quickly and positively and we are pleased to report the eligibility criteria have been changed. Of particular note is the extension of automatic eligibility for people with dementia or a 30-mile boundary and the ability to book multiple trips when people are undergoing a course of treatment.