Health Shuttle transport service to Stevenage's Lister Hospital is axed
PUBLISHED: 08:30 19 December 2018
Danny Loo Photography 2017
A transport service which patients rely on to take them to and from hospital appointments has been axed.
The Health Shuttle was a subsidised door-to-door service for staff, patients and visitors going to Lister Hospital in Stevenage, and was also available between Lister and the New QEII Hospital in Welwyn Garden City.
People in north Herts could book journeys for a £5 flat rate.
But subsiding the Lister Health Shuttle has been costing the East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust about £160,000 a year.
So the Trust – which has to make savings of £24.1 million in 2018/19 – pulled the plug on Saturday and the service is no longer available.
About 2,000 patients used the service last year to make about 8,000 journeys.
Most of those journeys – about 60 per cent – were for kidney patients, who travel for free.
Those kidney patients are still eligible for free transport provided by the East and North Herts Clinical Commissioning Group and delivered by the East of England Ambulance Service.
But Kirit Modi from the Lister Area Kidney Patients Association said there are concerns about the ability of EEAST to provide the service.
Patricia Dent, of Shirley Close in Stevenage, relied on the shuttle service and called the decision to axe it “a disaster”. She said: “I am 80 plus. I am partially disabled and need a walker and am limited to short distances.
“To get to an appointment it will take a walk and two buses, or use of a taxi - an expensive business as at times I have had three appointments a week.
“The help and kindness of the shuttle staff has been invaluable.”
The Health Shuttle was launched in 2005 in conjunction with Herts County Council and other funding partners.
When other partners dropped out, the NHS Trust agreed to continue the funding.
The service comprised of four cars operated through a lease agreement, costing around £200,000 a year to run – with around £40,000 raised each year from charges.
A Trust spokesman said: “Year on year the Trust has found it increasingly difficult to find the revenue to run the service and has had to use funds intended for patient care.”
Trust chief executive Nick Carver said: “Since 2007 the Trust alone had been funding this initiative. We no longer have the ability to do it.”