PATIENTS and visitors will soon be able to use a free shuttle bus to travel between two hospitals as part of a restructure of emergency care.
The North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation trust has announced that the bus will run between the University Hospital of Hartlepool and the University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton, seven days a week between 6am-10pm.
The free bus service will cater for:
l Patients attending appointments;
l Patients travelling for urgent care;
l Patients who are discharged from North Tees A&E after treatment;
l People who need to get back to Hartlepool after they have gone in an ambulance with a relative who has been admitted;
It will coincide with the closure of the A&E unit at the Holdforth Road hospital, in Hartlepool, on Tuesday, August 2.
Patients in need of emergency attention will be dealt with at a newly-created urgent care centre at the £20m One Life Hartlepool, in Park Road.
There will still be an emergency assessment unit at Hartlepool hospital but minor injuries previously dealt with by the A&E unit, the Victoria Road walk-in centre and the out-of-hours medical service will all be based at the One Life centre.
Surveys show that of those people going to A&E at the University Hospital of Hartlepool, 70 per cent travelled by car, 17 per cent by ambulance, six per cent by taxi, 1.3 per cent by public transport, or 505 people – 5.5 per cent – by “other means”.
Kevin Oxley, director of operations at the Trust, said: “It’s likely that travelling by public transport are people who have a minor injury or ailment and we think half of these people will have a shorter distance to travel once the services are transferred to One Life Hartlepool.
“Since the changes to services in 2007 we have been running a shuttle bus to enable staff to travel between sites.
“We want to help patients, their relatives and visitors so we’re extending the shuttle bus to seven days a week running from 6am-10pm between the University Hospital of Hartlepool and the University Hospital of North Tees.”
Mr Oxley, who said the service will only be available for health-related journeys, added: “In practice we would not leave patients stranded.
“Of course we always encourage patients or visitors to see if someone can collect them or they can get home themselves because money spent on transport is money that can’t be spent on direct patient care. “People on benefits can claim transport costs, and staff will help people to do this.
“However we understand it is very difficult for some people and, in those cases, we will arrange transport.
“This is likely to be late at night or at weekends when other transport is limited.”
Ali Wilson, director of commissioning and system development at NHS Hartlepool, said “We know that transport has been one of the things that has worried people the most and are really delighted that we have been able to work with North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust to come up with this solution.”
The A&E department was declared unfit for purpose by an independent review by health professionals, academics and councillors from Hartlepool Borough Council’s health scrutiny forum.
l Best of Health: Page 14