Patients stranded by early finish to ambulance service
8:03pm Sunday 6th October 2013 in Gwent news
PATIENTS' watchdogs in Gwent are calling on the area's health board and the ambulance service to solve the problem of people being stranded at hospitals after outpatient appointments.
Aneurin Bevan Community Health Council, the independent patients' watchdog, has received several complaints from patients - brought to hospital by the patient transport service run by the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust - who have been left without a lift home when their appointment was finished, because the service had ended for the day.
Some elderly and chronically ill patients rely on the patient transport service to get to and from hospital for such appointments.
But the service level agreement between the ambulance trust and Aneurin Bevan Health Board only allows for a service to be provided until 3.30pm on weekdays.
This has not been an issue until recently, but more one-stop outpatient clinics are now being held, where patients may have more than one diagnostic test or consultation, with a wait for results factored in.
This can lead to later conclusions to appointments, and the patient transport service may have finished for the day by the time patients emerge.
Some hospital clinics also run into the evening, as part of initiatives to minimise waiting times.
A CHC report states that the issue of patients being stranded appears to be "a particular problem at the Royal Gwent Hospital."
It continues: "They (the ambulance service) try to ensure that patients are not left stranded, but this is on the basis of goodwill rather than contractual obligation.
"We are concerned that as hospital appointments and clinics extend outside core working hours, the problem may increase unless service level agreements reflect this reality."
Health board members have been told that the agreement requires crews to be back at their base by 4.30pm. Stranding is not an issue exclusive to Gwent patients, and health boards and the ambulance service are looking at how it can be avoided.
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