End of the road for Lister shuttle

A SHUTTLE service which ferries the elderly and vulnerable to and from Lister Hospital is to stop in May due to a lack of funding. The Health Shuttle, launched in April 2005 and run by Hertfordshire County Council, The East and North Hertfordshire NHS Tru

A SHUTTLE service which ferries the elderly and vulnerable to and from Lister Hospital is to stop in May due to a lack of funding.

The Health Shuttle, launched in April 2005 and run by Hertfordshire County Council, The East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust and the East of England Ambulance Service, has lost its funding from the Department for Transport's Rural Challenge Grant.

At a cost of £3.50 for a single trip, the service is currently available to patients, visitors and staff but is primarily aimed at the elderly, vulnerable, and those living in rural areas.

It runs seven days a week, from 7am to 8pm on weekdays and 1pm to 8pm at weekends.

Mary Lawrence, who uses the service, said: "My husband and I are both disabled and use the shuttle on our visits to Lister.

"We have no other way of getting there and have used it regularly since it opened.

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"What do we have to do to keep such a good transport system going? I'm sure people that use it will be willing to pay that little bit more to help fund it.

"We will be lost without it and I'm sure there are plenty more people in similar circumstances that feel as we do.

"We can't get into taxis with the wheelchair and the shuttle serves us well.

"We are losing wards, nurses and plenty of other services so surely it is not too much to ask that we are left with something we can rely on."

Pensioner Doris Thurlow, who also uses the shuttle service, said: "I'm in absolute distress that it's going to stop. I have been using it since it started and it's brilliant.

"If I had to get a taxi it would cost me double so if they put the prices up a bit I wouldn't mind."

Mrs Draper, of Bedford Road, Hitchin, said: "I have used this service on a regular basis to attend hospital appointments and to visit relatives.

"It is an excellent and reasonable transport option for many people and a great asset to Lister.

"To lose this service would be a great loss to me and many other people."

A spokesman for the Trust said: "It has been really successful but we can't use money for transport that's intended for patient care.

"If it's to continue then money will need to be found from elsewhere."

A statement from Herts County Council said: "The Health Shuttle was a three year pilot scheme partnership between the county council, North Herts NHS Trust and the Ambulance Service.

"It took a year to get the scheme up and running and there was no bus for the first year.

"The majority of funding was provided from a government grant, with additional funding from the three partners. The three year pilot comes to an end in May and negotiations are currently ongoing to discuss the feasibility of continuing the service after this time.

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