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Travel costs

Rationale for stopping non-essential Ambulance Trust Patient Transport Service (PTS) 

As a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic the British Government is asking all patients to make their own way to outpatient appointments unless attending for cancer investigation or treatment, renal dialysis or they have a specific condition which the Government has defined as high risk.  As such the NHS Patient Transport Service (PTS) is unavailable for any other type of appointment. 

Please be assured that this isn't an County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust (CDDFT), NHS County Durham CCG or North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (NEAS) decision to stop PTS, it is a Government decision as a direct result of the COVID pandemic. 

NEAS must only transport one patient at a time per vehicle and have to fully disinfect the vehicle after each patient drop off.  This has massively reduced its ability to transport the volume of people who usually access the service.  As such the Government mandated that PTS should only be provided for essential purposes.  The Government has defined essential as those people attending cancer related appointments, renal dialysis or if they match a criteria on the Government defined high risk list (below) and are attending an appointment related to that condition. 

All NEAS available manpower and vehicles are now working on Blue Light emergencies and essential PTS.  The CCG and CDDFT has discussed additional transport from NEAS for patients who usually use PTS but who are not on the Government high risk list, are not attending for cancer or renal purposes and are immobile but NEAS simply don't have any more vehicles or staff (noting their workforce has been reduced too). 

The Government is asking that as everything else is non-essential that all other patients make their own way to outpatient appointments.  This is a blanket statement regardless of patient mobility, social situation or financial means. 

People on low incomes can continue to claim back the costs of self-booked transport via the Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme.  Those who are not on a low income but can't afford private transport (taxi for example) can continue to use Help To Health volunteer driving service, the Link2 bus, the Friends of Darlington Memorial Hospital volunteer driver service.  All of which incur a charge but are cheaper than a taxi.  There is also the NHS Responder Good Sam volunteer driving service.

 People who feel they are unable to use any of the above services, cannot transport themselves and have no family, friends, carers, social workers to help with transport can contact the outpatient department they are attending (telephone number on their CDDFT appointment letter) to inform the Trust they cannot attend as they have no transportation. 

This is the Government List of High Risk conditions for PTS:

High-risk patients include:

1. Solid organ transplant recipients.

2. People with specific cancers:

• lung cancer: who are undergoing active chemotherapy or radical radiotherapy

• cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma: who are at any stage of treatment

• those having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer

• those having other targeted cancer treatments which can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors

• those who have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last six months, or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs.

3. People with severe respiratory conditions, including cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe COPD.

4. People with rare diseases and inborn errors of metabolism that significantly increase the risk of infections (such as SCID, homozygous sickle cell).

5. People on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase risk of infection.

6. Women who are pregnant and have significant congenital heart disease. 

CDDFT have set up a cancer helpline 01207 594 466 for patients who need advice or are worried about their appointments during COVID19.  CDDFT patients can call for advice about their appointments and condition and book their cancer related PTS during the pandemic if they experience any difficulties. 

CDDFT operate a Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme (HTCS).  People on a low income or in receipt of benefits may be able to claim back (or in some instances, receive help upfront) reasonable travel expenses to and/or from hospital (including Help To Health and other volunteer driver service costs).  Travel expenses may be claimed in person from the Cashiers Office's at UHND or DMH or from Outpatients at Shotley Bridge Community Hospital or Bishop Auckland Hospital.  If you're an inpatient and need help to do this please ask to speak with our Transport Coordinator who can give you advice. 

The Cashiers Departments opening hours are:

UHND - Monday to Thursday: 9am to 12:30pm, 1pm to 4.30pm, Friday: 9am to 12.30pm, 1pm to 4pm

DMH - Monday to Thursday:  9.30am to 12.30pm, 1pm to 4.30pm, Friday: 9.30am to 12.30pm, 1pm to 4pm 

Claims can also be claimed retrospectively by completing the HC5 form which is available from the cashiers offices at UHND or DMH and from the Outpatients Department at Bishop Auckland Hospital or Shotley Bridge Hospital.  See our website for more information:

/patients-and-visitors/your-visit-to-the-hospital/travel-costs.aspx

 

Other services: 

Friends of Darlington Memorial Hospital

Friends of Darlington Memorial Hospital provides a volunteer driver scheme for patients who have difficulty getting to and from the hospital.  It's entirely free, although people may kindly make a donation.  To contact the friends, call 01325 743 866. 

Help To Health

Help To Health is a service operated by volunteer drivers which will drive people to and from their healthcare appointments at hospitals, GP surgeries, pharmacies and dentists.  The service is available 9am - 5pm Monday to Friday.

The cost is 50p per mile (minimum charge £1) to a maximum of £10 plus any parking charges, it's open to people in Durham of any age, free to register by calling 0300 330 9242 or visit www.helptohealth.org.uk

Bookings must be received 48 hours before the time of intended travel.  This is to allow time to make arrangements for a volunteer driver to collect you. 

Link2 Bus

Link2 is an accessible dial-a-ride bus service (journeys up to 5 miles) operated by Durham County Council, for people who do not have a suitable bus service, or are unable to access regular bus services due to mobility issues.  Link2 will pick you up from an address specified by you, for example your home.  It can be booked by anyone as long as:

•Your journey starts or ends in County Durham

•You do not have a bus stop within 600 metres/10 minutes walk

•You do not have a bus service available within one hour of when you want to travel

•The journey would require a change of bus

Fares are the same as regular bus services and are paid when you get on the bus.  Concessionary bus travel passes can also be used.  To book the service, contact 03000 269 999.  The booking line is open Monday to Friday 8.30am to 5.00pm.  Bookings can be made up to two weeks in advance and up to one hour before the time of intended travel.  However bookings are made on a first come, first served basis so it's best to book as early as possible.

https://durham.gov.uk/article/1991/Link2-bus-service 

Travelling By Car?

Due to the pandemic some hospital car parking charges have been temporarily suspended.  Please check the car parking section of our website or contact the site you are attending for further information.

/patients-and-visitors/your-visit-to-the-hospital/car-parking.aspx

 

Assistance with healthcare travel costs for patients

Patients on low incomes or receiving benefits may be eligible to receive financial support for travel costs to or from hospital.

The latest Healthcare Travel cost scheme HTCS, published by the Department of Health in May 2010, lays out the details of how and when financial support is provided to those on low incomes who need to travel to or from an NHS hospital site in order to receive treatment.

Key points are as follows (please click on to the attached document above, for full guidance):-

For a travel costs to be eligible for reimbursement through the HTCS they must:

  • Be incurred getting to Hospital for a diagnostic test or for treatment following a referral by a doctor or dentist
  • Not be for the same journey as the appointment where the referral was made
  • Be for treatment paid for by the NHS, regardless of whether it carried out by an NHS care professional or an independent one

Carers/escorts: If the patient's referring consultant, GP or another health care professional involved in the patient's care, state that it is medically necessary for a carer or escort to travel with the patient, the travelling expenses of the escort may also be claimed as part of the patient's travel expenses. This applies also for those escorting children under the age of 16.

HTCS does not apply in the following cases:

  • Transport of patients with a medical need for ambulance transport
  • Patients being transferred between treatment centres
  • Patients who discharge themselves from hospital at their own request
  • Visitors to patients in hospital
  • Private patients - HTCS support cannot be provided to private patients
  • Overnight stay costs
  • Parents requiring overnight stays - The benefits of encouraging parents to stay overnight with their children in hospital are now generally accepted and most children's departments provide facilities for parents to sleep on the ward. No charge should be made for these facilities

When presenting a claim for support with travel expenses please ensure that you provide proof of entitlement/benefit, for example documentation confirming receipt of income support, job seekers allowance etc.

Travel expenses may be claimed in person from the Cashiers Office's at University Hospital North Durham or Darlington Memorial Hospital or from Outpatients at Shotley Bridge Hospital or Bishop Auckland Hospital.

The Cashiers Departments opening hours are:

Univeristy Hospital of North Durham - Monday to Thursday: 9am to 12:30pm, 1pm to 4.30pm
Friday: 9am to 12.30pm, 1pm to 4pm

Darlington Memorial Hospital - Monday to Thursday:  9.30am to 12.30pm, 1pm to 4.30pm, Friday: 9.30am to 12.30pm, 1pm to 4pm

Claims can also be claimed retrospectively by completing the HC5 form which is available from the cashiers offices at Univeristy Hospital of North Durham or Darlington Memorial Hospital and from the Outpatients Department at Bishop Auckland Hospital or Shotley Bridge Hospital.

Explorer Tickets are available in advance by application to Financial Services, University Hospital North Durham (Contact number 0191 3332851) . The appointment(s) will be confirmed before the advance tickets are issued and attendance and entitlement to HTCS assistance will be checked.

'Care received was fantastic and I was very well looked after and very impressed.'

Patient, Day Surgery, Darlington Memorial Hospital