If you have used our city’s patient transport system in the last two years unfortunately the chances are that you’ve experienced severe problems. This has been especially upsetting for patients anxious about their treatment or those needing special care.

Coperforma was the private ambulance firm which was contracted to provide the service but during the tenure tens of thousands of patient journeys were missed, patients were left waiting for hours, patients missed appointments, ambulances were sent to the homes of patients who had died, ambulances operated without a licence and drivers went for months without pay.

In fact, Coperforma performed so poorly that after seven months the NHS pulled the plug. For this ‘service’ Coperforma were paid £16.2 million and the NHS paid close to £1 million in extra payments.

The GMB Union worked especially hard on behalf of patients and drivers to expose these problems and I helped in every way I can to put pressure on NHS bosses to get a grip before a patient died.

Over the course of the campaign I became more and more interested in the issue of patient transport and recently I started working with Age UK on this issue nationally because our system for getting older people to hospital isn’t fit-for-purpose. Our key concerns are:

*who gets help and how good that help is seems to be a postcode lottery.
*currently many older people are experiencing anxiety, exhaustion and distress getting to their hospital appointments.
*we want every older person to get to their hospital appointments safely without it being a struggle

After a huge amount of work with a brilliant team of people I am glad to say that the Age UK campaign has had an effect. We scored a major victory in the call for the Government to ensure older people receive better transport to and from hospital.

The Department for Transport recently published their Inclusive Transport Strategy, which included several mentions of the need for improvements to patient transport

Age UK’s Charity Director Caroline Abrahams says of the publication: ‘The Government’s Inclusive Transport Strategy contains some good news for older people and, in particular, we welcome its recognition of the importance of better hospital transport. We hope the actions committed to in the Strategy will lead to tangible improvements in local areas and we will be holding the Government to account for delivering on them.’

This is a positive step not just because this is an important issue, but because it was absent from the draft strategy published in November. This is proof positive that our voices have been heard and made a difference.

I will continue to put pressure on the government so that Patient transfer will continue to improve and we can avoid such awful mistakes in the future.

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