Hospital transport issues raised during Hartlepool council disabled access study

The University Hospital of Hartlepool where the shuttle bus picks up.

The University Hospital of Hartlepool where the shuttle bus picks up.

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A lack of wheelchair accessible taxis and hospital transport has been highlighted by Hartlepool residents during the first stage of a council investigation.

Feedback from three working group meetings in August highlighted various transport difficulties experienced by disabled people and their carers.

It just screams of discrimination. Clearly, that service is not adequate

Councillor Lesley Hamilton

They included the fact that a shuttle bus between the University Hospital of Hartlepool and University Hospital of North Tees cannot be accessed by wheelchair users.

People also said they had difficulty getting taxis, including to hospital and GP appointments, due to a lack of adapted vehicles and the need to pre-book.

Ironically, a number of disabled people could not get transport to attend the working group meetings to discuss the issue.

Joan Stevens, scrutiny manager at Hartlepool Borough Council, said: “There was exasperation at the fact the hospital transport bus is not disabled access suitable.”

Councillor Lesley Hamilton, who sits on the council’s Audit and Governance Committee, said: “It just screams of discrimination. Clearly, that service is not adequate.”

Regarding the alternative use of taxis that have a contract with North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, Ms Stevens added: “It was highlighted people are finding it difficult to get appointments.

“Also due to the booking system some people are being forced to leave appointments early which is completely unacceptable.”

Taxi drivers told the council the costs of adapting vehicles for wheelchair use were prohibitive at £16,000.

There is also a shortage of trained drivers, the group was told.

Peter Mitchell, director of estates and facilities management at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust said: “We work with patients who have a disability to find the best transport arrangements to suit their needs.

“If, because of a medical condition or mobility problems, patients feel they need transport to get to their appointment and they registered with a GP surgery there is help available.

“The contact details are available on the trust’s website www.nth.nhs.uk

“The trust provides shuttle buses which travel between the University Hospital of North Tees and the University Hospital of Hartlepool, however, to accommodate patients who require disabled access, the trust has a contract with a local Hartlepool taxi company, who have a requirement to provide disabled accessible taxis as and when we require them.”

The committee will produce a number of recommendations that will go to the council’s Adult Services group later.