A public consultation opens today to help shape a clear set of rules to ensure sustainable access to free, non-emergency patient transport services (NEPTS) in the Island in the future.
NEPTS was designed to assist people who are unable to make their own way to a healthcare appointment because of a medical condition, with transport provided between the person’s home and the facility they are attending. The service is also available to take people home after they have been discharged from hospital or other NHS care, if they cannot make an alternative arrangement.
The use of non-essential patient transport by the public has risen sharply over the last four years, along with the cost of running the service. In 2017, almost 5000 journeys to and from medical appointments were provided: by 2020 the number had jumped to almost 8700.
The consultation aims to find out what is causing the rise in demand, who uses the service and why, and what sort of eligibility criteria there should be for people who want to use patient transport in future. The document explains the background in easy-to-understand terms and sets out some proposals for new eligibility criteria for people with significant needs. These are grouped under four headings:
- the person has an assessed, severe medical need
- the person has a cognitive or sensory impairment
- the person has a severe mobility need
- the person attends for specific medical treatment two or more times per week
The document also sets out proposals for eligibility criteria for escorts, parents and carers of those who use patient transport services.
Minister for Health and Social Care Lawrie Hooper MHK said:
‘The department is committed to providing an on-Island patient transport service for those who need it. To ensure that we can continue to deliver this service in a sustainable way, we need to better understand current users and why we have seen such an increase in people needing to use the service. By adopting eligibility criteria we will ensure that patients who cannot use other forms of transport to get to their appointments can be assured of a reasonable, fair and responsive service.
‘We want to hear a wide range of views to understand the needs of service users which will in turn help us develop these criteria - and this is what the consultation is for. I urge everyone with a view, comment or suggestion on this topic, to take part.’
Respondents are guided through the consultation step-by-step, asked whether they agree with the criteria, and if not, how funding should be allocated to patient transport in different circumstances.
Current users of NEPTS are asked if they would be able to continue using the service if the suggested new rules are implemented, and if they feel changes would impact other groups or individuals. There’s also an opportunity to suggest additional eligibility criteria for consideration.
The survey concludes with a short series of questions about a future model for the NEPTS service, taking into account the government’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2020. A number of options to reduce or offset emissions are tabled in this section.
The consultation is open to everyone, whether or not they or a loved one currently uses patient transport. Individual residents, local organisations, charities and interested parties of any kind are invited to take part, as the consultation seeks to gather as wide a range of views as possible.
The consultation is open until 7 February 2022 and the results will be published early in the New Year. The department will consider the responses before finalising its eligibility criteria for the Island’s non-emergency patient transport service, with a target for implementation of April 2022.