ECT Charity pilots a pioneering health transport service

June 11, 2015

ECT Charity pilots a pioneering health transport service image
A happy passenger arrives at her GP Surgery on the PlusBus for Health service

ECT is piloting a pioneering health transport service in Ealing this year. The service is helping to reduce the number of missed appointments, saving valuable NHS resources and promoting an integrated approach to care.

The PlusBus for Health pilot is a joint project between ECT and the Ealing Clinical Commissioning Group (ECCG) to provide transport to and from GP surgeries in Ealing. Launched in November 2014, the service aims to reduce the number of GP house calls and no-shows at surgeries, and simultaneously improve the well-being of patients by providing the opportunity to leave their homes and increase social contact.

Since its launch the PlusBus for Health has made hundreds of journeys and its popularity has grown rapidly, tripling passenger numbers in the last three months. Having started with 5 surgeries back in November, PlusBus for Health is now working with 29 surgeries in the Ealing area.

Dr Mohini Parmar, chair of Ealing CCG, said: “We are all very proud of what we’ve achieved with the PlusBus service so far. We know that there are people who end up in A&E or in hospital, as a direct or indirect result of poor access to primary care services. Transportation can be a big problem for a lot of vulnerable people, especially over 65s.

“Huge sums of money are spent each year on missed NHS appointments and missed hospital outpatient appointments. When there is suitable transportation in place, the likelihood of each appointment being missed or forgotten is considerably reduced, as you would expect. That’s why we have invested in this innovative service with such confidence, and why we will continue to do so.”

Figures from NHS England have suggested that more than twelve million GP appointments are missed each year in the UK, costing in excess of £162 million per year. A further 6.9 million outpatient hospital appointments are missed each year in the UK, costing an average of £108 per appointment in 2012/13. In Ealing, transport is already provided for vulnerable people to attend hospital appointments. However, the ECCG was keen to tackle the issue of missed GP appointments among the elderly.

Dr Beena Gohil (pictured), a doctor at Oldfield Family Practice, one of the surgeries involved in the pilot in Ealing, said: “Elderly people often avoid coming to their GP because they are not able to walk or don’t want to pay for their taxi. This means that patients will sometimes wait until it is an emergency before calling or they will miss their appointment. They then end up being admitted to hospital, at a higher cost to the NHS.

“PlusBus for Health is a successful example of an integrated approach to care. People may not be able to access healthcare for a number of reasons. This service is looking at both the social and the medical – it’s focused on the whole person. “

87 year old Lucy Sparrow, a PlusBus for Health service user who has to visit her doctor once a fortnight said: “I only live down the road, but without the PlusBus for Health service, I would not be able to get to the surgery because my legs are too painful. The service is so important for people like me.

“The service is wonderful – the people are so kind and helpful. The drivers help you get on and off the bus in your own time, you never feel rushed. They meet me at my door, they are always there on time, which removes the worry of missing an appointment. One driver took me to the surgery and waited outside. I asked her to take me to the chemist afterwards so that I could pick up my tablets, and she did. Otherwise I would have had to wait for my medication to be delivered to me, or found a way of getting there myself. Everyone is very obliging – I have got nothing but praise for them.”

Over the years, the community transport sector has sought to provide essential transport for vulnerable passengers to access healthcare. However, many existing health transport schemes have a limited reach and lack long-term funding. In a recent report*, the Community Transport Association (CTA) called for a better joint working between health, local government and community transport, with community transport to be actively considered as a fully funded option for patient transport.

Anna Whitty, CEO of ECT Charity, said: “The PlusBus for Health service has been running for six months now and I am delighted at how well ECT, the GP practices and the CCG have worked together to create a very successful pilot. It’s a fantastic example of how the community transport sector can help to deliver an integrated approach to health care not just in Ealing, but one that could easily be replicated across the country in both rural and urban environments.

By understanding the importance of promoting community transport as the viable solution, the ECCG has adopted an innovative approach, changing how things are done in the NHS. This pilot has shown how a small investment can go a long way and can save valuable resources whilst still offering a high quality service to those who need it most. We have thoroughly enjoyed developing, monitoring and evolving the pilot to provide the best transport service to our client and customers.”

Categories: Ealing

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