Transport service aims to recoup cash

IPSWICH Hospital's patient transport service is to ask for contributions in a bid to recoup part of its £1.25million annual spending.The scheme will be voluntary and there is no fixed amount being requested - but the hospital is hoping for donations to be able to make service improvements while the hospital struggles to claw its way out of debt.

IPSWICH Hospital's patient transport service is to ask for contributions in a bid to recoup part of its £1.25million annual spending.

The scheme will be voluntary and there is no fixed amount being requested - but the hospital is hoping for donations to be able to make service improvements while the hospital struggles to claw its way out of debt.

Steve Harrup, the hospital's director of estates and facilities, said: “We spend a vast amount of money on patient transport and where costs are constantly rising.

“It's a very well supported service and we feel there are people out there who want to help in this way.

“We've already had donations from people, without even asking.

“We must stress it's not a charge, it's a voluntary contribution.”

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The patient transport service is for patients going to and from hospital who have a medical need and no alternative form of transport.

It does more than 1,700 journeys a week, the majority for patients over 65 years old.

Patients in wheelchairs or on stretchers can be catered for, and most journeys include several patients being picked up or dropped off.

The service is more than just transportation - for example, drivers will help patients in and out of their homes, often make a cup of tea before they leave and tell neighbours when patients who live alone are back home.

The service includes voluntary car drivers and East of England Ambulance Service employed ambulance transport assistants. It is also helped by St John Ambulance and other private ambulance companies.

To collect the contributions the hospital is planning to have donation envelopes, a move being support by the hospital's patient and public involvement forum and the Ipswich Hospital User Group.

In an attempt to make sure only the needy use the patient transport service, the hospital has launched a poster campaign within the hospital and may extend to GP surgeries.

The posters remind people not to use the service unless they have a medical need, to try to use public transport or get lifts from relatives where possible and that it is not a service for relatives, other than carers, as they take up seats which could be filled by patients.

A reminder is also being put out to patients who turn the service away when it arrives, as wasted trips cost up to £50.

The hospital is also liaising with Suffolk's Dial-a-Ride service which is considering introducing routes to and from the site for patients who do not qualify for the transport service.

N Do you think the voluntary contribution scheme is a good idea? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

THE Ipswich Hospital Patient Transport Service is looking for more voluntary drivers. For further information, call the East of England Ambulance Trust on 01473 631913.

JOAN Annison would be among the first to praise the patient transport service.

The 80-year-old, of Rectory Lane, Brantham, was so crippled by pain she was unable to walk unaided and could not lift herself out of a chair.

But Reg Farrow and Mel Fulcher, ambulance transport assistants (ATAs), picked up Mrs Annison and delivered her to hospital in less than four hours after a home visit GP raised the alarm.

The pair arrived at her home in one of the services specialist vehicles, designed to transport stretcher patients.

After talking to Mrs Annison about her condition and reassuring her about the trip, they helped her onto a stretcher.

Mel then spent the journey to the acute medical unit at the hospital talking to Mrs Annison, answering her concerns and putting her mind at rest with chat about gardening and the Mrs Annison's life story.

Once at the hospital the ATAs pass on medical information to staff and transferred Mrs Annison onto a bed.

Mrs Annison said: “I don't know where I'd be without them.”

Her husband of 16 years, William, 89, said: “They do a marvellous job.”

Mel said: “A lot of people think of us as a glorified taxi service but we are much more than that.”

Reg said: “We aren't paramedics but we are trained in first aid. And we have more time for the patients.

“We want to make things as easy as we can for them.”

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