BY RICHARD CORNWELL, Felixstowe editor
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
WHEELCHAIR-bound Debbie Farrow is today calling for a rethink over free hospital transport after being told she would have to pay for a taxi to appointments.
She is one of many across the county who have been told they no longer qualify for a lift to and from their home – and are fit enough to get themselves to hospital.
New rules say the only people eligible for free transport are those that need medical support during their journey, and if they can use public transport in normal circumstances, they can use it instead of an NHS vehicle.
Ms Farrow, 43, of Crown Street, Walton, Felixstowe, claimed said the £50-plus cost of a round trip in an adapted taxi is crippling her finances.
She suffers from a range of illnesses including osteoporosis of the spine and severe brittle asthma, is blind in one eye, has an over-active thyroid, poor circulation and a hernia.
She said: “I think it is disgusting that the transport has been stopped and I now have to fund it out of my own pocket – if I need two or three appointments in a short space of time, there is no way I can afford it.
“I am confined to a wheelchair and have always had transport provided for my regular appointments at outpatients and various clinics. I need help in and out of the vehicle and there are times I have needed oxygen.
“When I was at the hospital last week, I heard two that people who should have arrived for appointments that afternoon had not turned up because they could not get there, so this is affecting a lot of people.”
Hospital transport rules have been changed to save taxpayers’ money and because it was felt previously people were receiving free lifts who could easily arrange their own transport. However, there has been criticism of the changes with South Suffolk MP Tim Yeo saying the system had gone from being “too lenient” to the other extreme.
A spokesman for NHS Suffolk said: “Since September 2011, national guidelines issued by the Department of Health have been applied to ensure that those patients who are eligible for free NHS funded transport are given it.
“If a patient feels they have been unfairly declined access to free NHS-funded transport, they should contact the NHS Suffolk Patient Advice and Liaison Service on 0800 389 6819 to appeal against the decision.”