I have recently been working on a survey with the Sevenoaks District Seniors Action Forum that focuses on the difficulties that many people have experienced getting to their ‘new and improved’ local health services.
Many of the people we have spoken to, especially those who don’t drive or have access to a car have told us that getting to the hospitals at Pembury and Maidstone is often far more painful than whatever might be ailing them.
Although required, a travel plan for the new and state of the art hospital at Pembury was never submitted at the planning stage. They apparently weren’t expecting it to go anywhere.
The traditional NHS Hospital Transport Service has of course been affected by the recent cuts, but apparently it’s a secret. Most people only find out about its demise when they ask to use it and by then it is often a little late to find an alternative. There are voluntary car services operating, but demand is by far outstripping supply. The costs of taking a taxi or using some of the incentivised transport services can be incredibly expensive or at the very least daunting for many elderly or infirm patients. Clearly, communication is a key issue for patients who need to know what services are available to them and how much they can expect to pay to use them.
I am campaigning to get these problems recognised and to find long term solutions for them. I have already asked for appointments to be scheduled later so that the free bus pass can be used, which is a small and common sense start, but much more needs to be done.
It needs to be made much easier for patients and their transporters to make appointments or be able to change them by phone when necessary.
Maximising the support and funding available from local councils is also vital, and there may also be further funding available from the new C.I.L (Community Infrastructure Levy). What we need is clarity and communication. These NHS Health Services have been practically built and paid for by those it is now failing, tax payers who have diligently made their contribution over a whole lifetime. They deserve to have the ability to use these services when they need to.
By having the appropriate bus and train timetables readily available, having local taxi firms offer fixed cost pricing and providing a list of the available voluntary and incentivised transport services would go a long way to helping people be adequately prepared for a trip to the hospital.
I would appreciate your support on this important issue. If you have a suggestion or would like to help or be involved directly, please don’t hesitate to contact me on 01732 461 397.
Cllr Merilyn Canet 01732 461 397.