HOSPITAL TRAVEL NIGHTMARE
HOSPITAL TRAVEL NIGHTMARE (BRIEFING 57/17)
Following a recent meeting between Silver Voices Director, Dennis Reed, and Caroline Abrahams, Chief Executive of Age UK, we will be working more closely with that organisation in future. We will summarise more of their important research in our briefings and support their campaigns where possible. Age UK have agreed to help us with raising our profile and have introduced us to their local branches. We will also be meeting senior figures at the charity Independent Age in the next few weeks.
Age UK has just produced an interesting report on the extreme difficulties faced by many senior citizens in travelling for hospital appointments, ‘Painful Journeys’. Their research found that around 1.45 million people aged over 65 find it “difficult” or “very difficult” to travel to hospital for appointments. Many can no longer drive or do not have access to a car.
Public transport routes can be complex or non-existent, exacerbated by recent savage cuts in bus routes in many areas. There may not be a bus stop close to the home and the end bus stop may be located too far from the hospital entrance for anyone with mobility difficulties. Several changes of bus or train may be required. The closure of smaller community hospitals and the centralisation of services compounds this problem.
Hospital provided public transport is of variable quality and eligibility criteria may be strict. The Age UK report provides examples of inefficiencies and long waiting times. Although the report does not say so, others have commented on the drop in quality of hospital provided transport as a result of the widespread privatisation of this service. Community transport schemes try to plug some of the gaps, but they have also suffered from grant cuts in recent years.
There is over-reliance on families and friends to make sure senior citizens can get to their appointments, either by taking time off work to drive them to hospital or to fund expensive private taxis. When they get there the exorbitant hospital parking charges are another burden.
The consequences of these issues are not just in the discomfort faced by hospital users. Age UK research reveals that 16% of senior citizens have been late or missed an appointment because of travel difficulties, causing large extra costs to the NHS. Also, the stress of these journeys is making people more unwell: 15% of the Age UK survey said they felt worse as a result of their journey to hospital.
Age UK has asked supporters to write to their MPs expressing their concern about this situation and calling for a review of hospital travel. This briefing will automatically go to the 300 MPs on our lists, but it would help if you also sent a copy of this briefing to the constituency office of your own MP, asking them to raise the issue with the responsible Minister, Philip Dunne MP. You can find your MP’s email address on the following link:
The Age UK Research Report can be accessed on the following link:
Any first-hand examples from Silver Voices members of difficulties with travel to hospital would be helpful for our campaigning.
24 October 2017
You can access our regular briefings on senior citizen issues by joining Silver Voices at www.silvervoices.co.uk/join-us .