Patients travelling to NHS non-emergency healthcare are normally expected to make their own way, using their own transport or the range of public, community or voluntary transport available locally.
Some people may be eligible for NHS-funded patient transport on health grounds if they meet the criteria for support or assistance on or after their journey. Eligibility criteria are in place to ensure that anyone with a genuine need can access the services they require.
A person’s eligibility for NHS-funded patient transport services will be assessed against medical or financial eligibility criteria. This will ensure that everyone is treated fairly.
NHS Kernow has identified that anyone who is a frequent traveller for a specific medical condition may also need access to a NHS-funded transport service if they need to attend hospital at least:
- 3 times a week for a sustained course of treatment lasting a minimum of 6 weeks
- 6 times a month for a sustained course of treatment lasting a minimum of 3 months
Who can use the service?
A person’s eligibility for NHS-funded patient transport services will be assessed against the following nationally and clinically defined eligibility criteria as a medical condition that:
- requires the skills or support of patient transport staff, on or after the journey, to the extent that it would be detrimental to their condition or recovery if they were to travel by any other means
- impacts on their mobility, to such an extent that they would be unable to access healthcare, and it would be detrimental to the patient’s condition or recovery to travel by any other means
You can’t use the NHS-funded patient transport service if:
- you are usually able, for the purpose of daily living, to travel in a private car (for example a relative, friends or neighbour’s car) or on public transport (for example a bus, train, volunteer car service or taxi)
- you are travelling for private treatment funded by yourself
- the transport is for social need, for example because a patient does not have their own car
- the transport is to primary care services, for example a GP or dentist
- you require an urgent or 999 response
- you are visiting someone in hospital
I think I might be eligible, what should I do now?
You should call the centralised booking office on 01872 252211. The office is open 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday and 9.30am to 5pm on weekends and bank holidays. Someone in the team will be able to arrange transport, subject to eligibility criteria being satisfied.
Anyone travelling from the Isles of Scilly to the mainland for non-emergency appointments for treatment should also call the centralised booking service on 01872 252211.
If I am eligible, when will I be collected by the transport service?
Your transport will be with you in plenty of time so that you arrive promptly. If you’re being discharged from hospital, you’ll be advised when transport will be available to take you home.
Will I be taken straight there?
You should be aware that your pick-up time could well be in advance of your appointment time as the vehicle may be collecting other people. It’s also worth remembering that on the journey home after discharge from hospital, you may not be taken straight to your destination. We will make every effort to minimise journey times wherever possible.
Can I bring someone with me?
You can travel with an escort if 1 of the following applies:
- Your medical condition is such that you require constant supervision for safety (the escort must be able to meet your medical need and it should be established whether a healthcare professional would not be the preferred option).
- You have mental health problems that prevent you travelling alone.
- You are younger than 16 years.
- You have significant communication difficulties, including learning difficulties, impaired sight or is hard of hearing (where a patient has communication difficulties the escort should be able to provide a positive benefit in ensuring the patient can understand anything being said to them by the ambulance crew; for example, through the use of sign language where the patient is hard of hearing).
If you think any of the criteria apply to you, then you may be eligible to be accompanied.
I’m not eligible for the patient transport service on medical grounds. Can I claim help with my travel costs?
If you receive income-related benefits or if you have a low income, you may be able to get help with all or some of your travel costs under the Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme. You must meet 3 conditions:
- At the time of their appointment you or your partner (including civil partners) must be in receipt of 1 of the qualifying allowances or benefits.
- You must have a referral from a health care professional for a specialist planned appointment or to a hospital for further NHS-funded treatment or tests.
- Your appointment must be on a separate visit to when the referral was made.
The nhs.uk website has information on the Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme or can call the national health costs advice line on 0845 850 1166 or 0300 330 1343.
If you are not on the specified benefits but have a low income, you may still be eligible for a full or partial refund through the NHS low income scheme.
How can I get further information?
The hospital where you are receiving treatment can also advise you about making a travel costs claim (at most hospitals, this will be general office or cashier’s office) and they will be able to supply the correct forms.
Can I claim if I am visiting someone in hospital?
No. The NHS scheme does not cover visitors.
I live in an area where I can’t access public transport easily. Are there any options for me?
There are a number of community transport services within Cornwall that can be accessed. The Cornwall Council website has more information (search for ‘community transport schemes’). Please note there is a charge to patients for these services.
What should I do if I am not happy with a decision that has been made?
If you are unhappy with a decision to:
- refuse non-emergency patient transport
- the reimbursement of travel costs
- the way the policy has been applied to your individual circumstances
You can appeal to the centralised booking service where it will be reviewed by a senior manager.
Please contact 01872 252211 for further details of the appeals process.
Need more information on patient transport?
Contact the centralised booking office on 01872 252211. The office is open 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday and 9.30am to 5pm on weekends and bank holidays.