Patient Transport Service Northumberland

Patient Transport Services insight

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.

Read the full report and the response from North East Ambulance Service

Access to GP appointments May 2016

Between December 2015 and February 2016 Healthwatch Northumberland worked on a countywide project to better understand patients’ experiences of accessing GP appointments and the systems used by GP practices. Both patients and GP practices were contacted for their feedback and other sources information were also examined.


Overview of the Access to GP Appointments Project

This overview must be considered alongside the full report which presents the findings question by question and includes quote examples of patients’ experiences as well as other supporting sources of data.

Background, Aims and Method

Throughout 2015, feedback from the public highlighted access to GP appointments as a key issue in Northumberland, in terms of the time patients had to wait between requesting an appointment and seeing their GP, as well as different ways access to GP appointments is offered. There had also been some feedback about how long patients wait beyond their appointment time until they are seen by their GP. However, this does sit alongside much positive feedback from patients about their GP services.

Healthwatch Northumberland’s Access to Healthcare Task Group recommended that this issue was explored in more detail to help us understand the scope and scale of the problem for patients as well as look at what patients say works well for them with regards to the delivery of GP services so that it can be usefully shared.

The aim of the project was therefore to find out more about patients’ experience of accessing GP appointments in Northumberland, from both a patient and practice perspective. Two questionnaires were designed (one for patients and one for GP practices) which aimed to provide a snapshot of the current situation in Northumberland. Additional sources of data were also reviewed and offer additional support for the conclusions and recommendations drawn in this report.

The full report can be found here:  Access to GP Appointments – Detailed findings







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