Patient transport cuts, West Cornwall HealthWatch Cornishman article Nov 2017

WEST CORNWALL HEALTHWATCH  COLUMN NOVEMBER 2017 Public transport in Cornwall is a problem, isn’t it?  The county is long, thin and rural. Trains only go between certain towns, and as for buses, well…..!  Now, that may not concern you if you drive and travel up to a well-paid job, or for a day of ‘retail therapy’ in the city.  It’s different if you are ill, and have to get to vital hospital appointments or treatment. If you don’t have a car, it’s complicated, time-consuming and costly to travel up to Truro, let alone Plymouth.
This has been brought into sharp focus by the recent decision of Cornish health commissioners to remove any discretionary help for transport to hospital, along with stopping funding to voluntary transport providers such as TAP (who take mainly elderly or frail passengers door-to-door).  The impact of the changes will be enormous: unless a patient is in receipt of a narrow range of benefits, or is medically assessed for disability, there will be NO financial help for their transport.
If you need renal dialysis three days a week and have to go to Treliske or Derriford it is exhausting and expensive.  If you have cancer and need radiotherapy five days a week for some weeks, having to undertake long journeys when you are feeling increasingly fatigued or sick is draining physically as well as financially.  
We in West Cornwall HealthWatch have campaigned about transport and access to health care for twenty years, and these latest cuts fill us with alarm.  We are calling on the Clinical Commissioning Group to think again, particularly since it seems they don’t know how many patients will be affected by their decision.  By contrast, we are all too aware of the deep anxiety currently felt, particularly by cancer and renal patients who simply don’t know how they are going to afford their transport costs.  
In an age where we are being expected to travel further to access treatment, this problem is going to grow, and it makes a mockery of ‘free at the point of need’ when you can’t afford to get there.  Not everyone has the luxury of a car, or a relative/friend able and available to drive a patient sometimes long distances and frequently gone for many hours.  We are calling for a radical new look at the whole issue of patient transport, which we hope will result in truly fair and equitable access to care for everyone in this county.  Please contact us with your Patient Stories.  We guarantee your privacy, but every story you tell will help us in assessing the true picture in the far west of Cornwall.  
Please phone 01736 788107, email, or contact us through Facebook or our website
Copyright Marna Blundy