Unions chiefs have reacted with anger at the news that a free hospital shuttle bus service for patients and staff is to be reduced.
The Shuttle Bus provided by the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust runs daily between Hartlepool and the University Hospital of North Tees in Stockton.
From December 1, it will start from 8.30am in Hartlepool instead of 6.15am, and the final journey will leave at 8.30pm compared to 9pm on a weekday and 9.30pm on weekends.
The hospital trust’s director of estates Peter Mitchell said the move was due to financial pressures.
UNISON representative Trevor Johnston hit out at the announcement and said the organisation was looking at the possibility of a legal challenge.
He said: “This is going to affect all sorts of staff, but especially lower paid staff like domestics who don’t have cars.
“Now, instead of being ale to get the shuttle bus some are going to have to get three buses from one place to another.
“For low paid staff it becomes very expensive and the question is can they really afford to come to work?
“We think it’s absolutely ridiculous.
“It is something that helps the Trust run smoothly and helps services at Hartlepool which has been run down a bit.”
He said many staff have a four-year travel entitlement under their terms and conditions.
Mr Johnston added: “We are putting together a legal challenge for those who have it in their terms and conditions.
“We are looking at a major campaign and will contact MPs.
“Staff are very upset.
“We have had many, many calls about it.
“Early mornings and late nights which are being reduced is when domestics and porters are coming and going.”
Readers took the Mail’s Facebook page to have their say on the issue.
Diane Tucker wrote: “How are people supposed to get to visit the loved ones in hospital? It’s annoying.”
Angela Scott added: “Lives put at risk because of closing our A&E now making people suffer more especially people on low incomes.
“Why make patients suffer more by getting no visits? Not everyone owns cars.”
Norma Rogan wrote: “The Goverment is not going to be happy until the north has nothing left shocking.”
The trust has said that the service remains free but needs to be pre-booked via the on 01429 522550.
It added patients can ask to use its free door-to-door volunteer driver service on the same number.
Patients with restrictive health needs can also access the ambulance Patient Transport Service.
Ask your GP for help to book.