'Lifeline' transport service to Stevenage's Lister Hospital could be terminated
PUBLISHED: 07:41 28 September 2018
Danny Loo Photography 2017
A transport service which patients rely on to take them to and from hospital appointments could be axed.
The Health Shuttle is a subsidised door-to-door service for staff, patients and visitors going to Lister Hospital in Stevenage, and is also available between Lister and the New QEII Hospital in Welwyn Garden City.
The East and North Herts NHS Trust says the service is currently under review because it runs at a loss of about £160,000 a year.
The news has come as a blow to 90-year-old Frederick Vass, who lives in Letchworth and relies on the Health Shuttle to regularly take him to appointments in Lister’s cardiology, urology and oncology departments.
Mr Vass said: “My wife died four years ago and I have been using the Health Shuttle regularly since then.
“I have had 16 operations for skin cancer so far, I have a stone in my bladder, and I have to go to cardiology every three months because I have an implant in my heart.
“Over the next two weeks I have three hospital appointments.
“I don’t know how I will get to Lister if the shuttle stops, and there must be a lot of people like me, including my neighbour.
“What about people on dialysis who have to go to hospital daily?
“When you get old, often you can’t drive anymore. I used to drive but I had to stop two years ago because I had two blackouts.
“I want to retain my independence and the Health Shuttle is a lifeline. I shall miss it.”
Mr Vass says he has been told the service will permanently stop running on December 14, but the NHS trust says a decision about the future of the Health Shuttle has yet to be made.
A spokesman said: “Historically the trust has managed the Health Shuttle service, which received subsidies from local health partners that were withdrawn some years ago.
“The service, which is used by relatively few people, runs at a loss of approximately £160,000 annually.
“Given the financial pressures facing the NHS, the trust cannot allow this position to continue and the service’s future is being reviewed currently.
“Whatever the outcome, people will have access to a number of low-cost schemes across the county that are coordinated through North Hertfordshire CVS. Visit nhcvstransport.org.uk.”