Patients to travel in environmentally friendly vehicles

PATIENTS in Lincolnshire, who are eligible for free NHS transport to their appointments, will be driven in a new fleet of environmentally friendly vehicles from next year.

The vehicles will be equipped with satellite navigation and text messaging pick-up reminders.

Under the proposed new arrangements, all non-emergency patient transport in Lincolnshire is set to be operated by NSL Ltd after new contract details are finalised next year.

NSL Ltd emerged as the new preferred bidder for the county following a rigorous 10-month competitive tendering process by East Midlands Procurement and Commissioning Transformation (EMPACT), the NHS commissioning support unit working on behalf of the region’s primary care trusts.

Long standing national rules on who is eligible for free transport will be applied fairly and firmly to help ensure that only patients with a genuine medical need receive the NHS funded service. They are assessed using a set of national criteria.

Most patients make their own arrangements for getting to and from treatment, often helped by family and friends.

But there are other patients who have a genuine clinical need for NHS-funded transport because of the severity of their condition, and who have no alternative means to access vital treatment.

John McIvor, chief executive for NHS Lincolnshire said: “Patient transport services provide a valuable service to those who need support in attending appointments at health care settings. As commissioners, we have a responsibility to ensure our services are cost effective, efficient and meet the needs of all of our patients in terms of minimising discomfort and providing them with a friendly, helpful and appropriate service to and from their treatment.”

The new vehicles will be fitted with satellite navigation systems to reduce patient journey and waiting times. To improve communications with patients, the new transport service will also use mobile phone text messaging to remind patients of their pick-up dates and times.

It is estimated that there are currently 92,000 wasted journeys a year, partly due to staff who book journeys not cancelling them in time when they are no longer required.

Similar arrangements will apply across the East Midlands under the terms of the new contracts, which are due to phased in from April 2012 when the current contractual arrangements expire.