New research published this week demonstrates that Ealing Community Transport’s PlusBus for Health service vastly reduces the need for GP home visits, lowers the rate of missed appointments and improves the care that elderly people receive. It also plays an important role in combating loneliness in the London Borough of Ealing.
PlusBus for Health is a door-to-door service that enables isolated older and disabled people to travel between their homes and GP surgeries. It is funded by Ealing Clinical Commissioning Group and is free for GPs and patients to use. The service began in April 2017 following a successful two-year pilot.
The research also demonstrates that in 2017/18, every £1 spent on PlusBus for Health generated a social value of £1.22.
Dr Mohini Parmar, Chair of Ealing Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “In Ealing, we are taking steps to tackle social isolation, which is often a problem for our older and disabled residents. We are also taking action to reduce the number of people who miss their GP appointments, and need home visits in the borough.”
She added: “The PlusBus for Health community transport service delivers on both of these ambitions and we have been really pleased to see the service benefit so many of our residents since its launch.”
Targeting the most isolated
As the Prime Minister, Theresa May, pointed out when she launched the government’s loneliness strategy in October: “Loneliness sits alongside childhood obesity and mental wellbeing as one of the greatest public health challenges of our time.”
At Ealing Community Transport (ECT), we have been highlighting the strong link between loneliness and ill health for many years. Our community transport services give isolated people the opportunity not only to get where they need to go, but also to chat and socialise with fellow passengers on their journey.
The research into the impact of PlusBus for Health demonstrates that it is really reaching out to the most frail and isolated people in our community – 62% of passengers are over 80 years old, and eligible passengers have limited transport support from family and friends to help them attend appointments.
The research shows that PlusBus for Health improves the wellbeing of its passengers and helps them beat loneliness.
Mollie Evett is just one example of the many elderly people who have had their lives transformed by PlusBus for Health. Mollie is 84 years old, lives alone and has difficulty walking. She uses PlusBus for Health to get to her GP surgery and, after being told about ECT’s PlusBus service too, she now uses that to get to the supermarket.
She told us: “ECT are fantastic; I can’t live without them. The drivers are lovely, we get to know them and have chats with them and a joke. That sort of fun keeps you going.”
Improving the health service
PlusBus for Health is helping its passengers receive better care. The research found that PlusBus for Health reduced by more than two-thirds the amount of appointments that elderly people missed, and nearly halved the home visits that GPs had to make.
This means that patients receive better quality care because having appointments at the surgery enables doctors and nurses to spend more time with their patients. It also gives the medical professionals access to the specialist equipment they need for tests which aren’t available in people’s homes.
Furiha Chaudry, practice manager at Gordon House Surgery in Ealing, explained that her surgery now runs more efficiently as GPs and nursing staff don’t spend so much time travelling to see patients. She said: “Instead of having 10 home visits a day, we now have up to 10 a week. And we’ve had good feedback from patients too.”
Sharing our story
ECT’s CEO, Anna Whitty MBE, emphasised that the purpose of highlighting the strengths of the service was to encourage more surgeries in Ealing to make fuller use of it, and to inspire other communities to explore developing similar services.
She added: “PlusBus for Health is a big success and we are proud of our partnership with Ealing Clinical Commissioning Group. Our new research is testimony to its benefits, the savings it brings to the NHS and the social value that it creates.”
You can read more about PlusBus for Health in our ‘Special Focus’ publication, which you can see here.
Read the PlusBus for Health Impact Evaluation here.
If you run a surgery and would like more information on using PlusBus for Health for your patients, call us on 020 8813 3214.