NHS bosses accused of failing some of the most needy patients in a cost-cutting clampdown on transport to hospital appointments say they have strived to avoid a “computer says no” situation.
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John Darley, of Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby clinical commissioning group (CCG), told North Yorkshire’s scrutiny of health committee the introduction of national eligibility guidelines for patient transport was “all about the quality of the service we want to deliver”.
Mr Darley was appearing before the committee following a motion by Councillor John Blackie calling on CCGs to fund necessary patient transport services and recognise cutbacks in the service has caused anxiety across the county.
Cllr Blackie told members seriously ill people who had been unjustly refused transport under the new regime had faced a “Spanish Inquisition-style” interrogation as they attempted to get transport to a hospital clinic.
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Mr Darley said implementing the national criteria was designed to account for distances patients faced travelling to clinics and the appeals process ensured transport for those who were seriously ill or had no alternative.
Responding to criticism that patients had been denied transport due to an algorithm, Mr Darley said: “We did not want ‘the computer says no, end of’.”
He said: “We want to provide a service that is as equitable and fair as possible, it doesn’t matter whether you live in Hawes or Northallerton.”
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After the meeting, the committee’s chairman, Councillor Jim Clark, said it was not acceptable that residents were not able to rely on patient transport in areas stretching from the Yorkshire Dales and Harrogate to the North York Moors and Ryedale.
He said the committee would call on the council to press CCGs to implement a series of changes to the patient transport process, including taking more consideration of patients’ travelling distances and a simpler and better publicised appeals process.
Stuart Minting, Local Democracy Reporting Service