Frequently Asked Questions

What is NHS Funded Patient Transport?

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 patients may be eligible for NHS funded patient transport on health grounds if they meet the criteria for support or assistance on or after the journey.

Eligibility criteria are in place to ensure that those with a genuine need have access to the services they require.

A person’s eligibility for NHS funded patient transport will be assessed against medical or financial eligibility criteria. This will ensure that all patients are treated fairly. For more information, click here.

Who can use NHS Funded Patient Transport?

Patients are eligible when they meet the criteria at the time of booking and the journey. This does not include social reasons for transport (such as being unable to afford a journey or not having access to a bus or car).

A copy of the leaflet can be found here.

If you are unsure as to whether you qualify for support either based on your medical or financial needs, in the first instance please contact the Centralised Booking Service at Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust on 01872 252211. The Centralised Booking Service is available between 8am and 8pm Monday to Friday and 9.30pm to 5pm at weekends and Bank Holidays (with the exception of Christmas Day when the office is closed).

Who pays for NHS Funded Patient Transport?

NHS Kernow pays for the transport provision for any patient registered with a GP in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly who has been assessed as eligible for NHS funded patient transport and are attending non-emergency NHS funded healthcare excluding primary dental or medical care appointments.

Do patients have to pay for or contribute to NHS Funded Patient Transport?

Patients that are eligible will not need to pay for transport.

What are the medical criteria?

A patient’s eligibility for NHS funded patient transport services will be assessed against the following nationally defined clinical eligibility criteria:

  • 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; or
  • A medical condition that 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.

How do I check my eligibility?

If you are unsure as to whether you qualify for support either based on your medical or financial needs, in the first instance please contact the Centralised Booking Service at Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust on 01872 252211. The Centralised Booking Service is available between 8am and 8pm Monday to Friday and 9.30pm to 5pm at weekends and Bank Holidays (with the exception of Christmas Day when the office is closed).

If I have been assessed once, will I always be eligible?

No, each time a patient makes a booking their eligibility will be reassessed to take into account changing circumstances and clinical needs.

I’m attending the hospital regularly am I eligible for NHS Funded Patient Transport?

NHS Kernow has identified that patients who are frequent travellers for a specific medical condition may also need access to NHS Funded transport service.

Frequent travellers are defined as those patients who are required to attend hospital:

  • At least three times a week for a sustained course of treatment lasting a minimum of six weeks; or,
  • At least six times a month for a sustained course of treatment lasting a minimum of three months.

For more information please contact the Centralised Booking Service at Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust on 01872 252211. The Centralised Booking Service is available between 8am and 8pm Monday to Friday and 9.30pm to 5pm at weekends and Bank Holidays (with the exception of Christmas Day when the office is closed).

I live in a nursing home/residential home; will I automatically qualify for the patient transport service?

No, not necessarily. Patients will only receive NHS funded patient transport if they are individually assessed as meeting the medical eligibility criteria.

Care homes should not ask the patient’s GP surgery to book transport on their behalf.

Will I automatically qualify for NHS funded patient transport if I use a wheelchair?

No, not necessarily. Patients will only receive NHS funded patient transport if they are individually assessed as meeting the medical eligibility criteria.

How do I book transport?

For your first appointment you should contact the Centralised Booking Service at Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust on 01872 252211. They will assess your eligibility by asking you a number of questions. For follow up appointments and discharges, your healthcare provider will book these on your behalf through the Centralised Booking Service. The Centralised Booking Service is available between 8am and 8pm Monday to Friday and 9.30pm to 5pm at weekends and Bank Holidays (with the exception of Christmas Day when the office is closed).

Are there any special arrangements for Isles of Scilly residents?

Yes. Under the National Health Service (Travel expenses and remission of charges) regulations 2003, there are special arrangements in place for residents of the Isles of Scilly.

For Isles of Scilly residents to qualify for the patient transport service to the mainland, patients must meet three conditions:

  1. At the time of their appointment the patient must be usually resident (not temporary resident) on the Isles of Scilly; and
  2. The patient must have a referral from a health care professional for a specialist or to a hospital for further NHS funded treatment or tests; and
  3. The patient’s appointment must be on a separate visit to when the referral was made.

For more information please contact the Centralised Booking Service at Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust on 01872 252211. The Centralised Booking Service is available between 8am and 8pm Monday to Friday and 9.30pm to 5pm at weekends and Bank Holidays (with the exception of Christmas Day when the office is closed).

Can I book NHS funded patient transport to go to my GP appointment?

No. The national regulations do not allow NHS funded patient transport services to take patients to primary care i.e. GP, dentist, optician or pharmacist or any appointment provided by the practice staff.

Who will decide who gets patient transport? Are they clinically trained to decide?

Staff at the Centralised Booking Service at Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust on 01872 252211 will undertake eligibility assessments and book transport, using the same criteria each time. These staff will follow protocols to check the patient’s eligibility, whether they can safely use other forms of transport and any immediate circumstances which have to be taken into account. They do not base their decisions on a given diagnosis but on a patient’s need for support and access to help. They will seek the advice of a clinician involved in the patients care where appropriate.

Can I book the patient transport service for my NHS appointments outside of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly?

Yes, provided that you are a patient registered with a GP in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly who has been assessed as eligible for NHS funded patient transport and are attending non-emergency NHS funded healthcare excluding primary dental or medical care appointments.

Do I qualify for help with accommodation costs?

No, this policy does not allow for discretionary payments to cover accommodation costs.

I am attending a hospital outside of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly for treatment not provided locally will I automatically receive free NHS Funded patient transport for my journey out of and return to Cornwall?

No. Patients will only receive NHS funded patient transport if they are individually assessed as meeting the medical eligibility criteria. If a patient is financially eligible they can reclaim the costs of travel through the Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme (HTCS) details of which can be found here.

I am not eligible for NHS funded transport and I live in an isolated area and cannot access public transport, where can I get help?

There are a number of community transport services available in Cornwall to support anyone who is not eligible for NHS-funded patient transport. For more details click here. The patient will have to pay for the cost of these services.

Can I bring someone with me on my NHS Funded transport with me?

You can travel with an escort if one 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); or
  • You have mental health problems that prevent you travelling alone; or
  • You are younger than 16 years; or
  • 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.

Can I ask for a female only or male only crew?

In some clinical circumstances, where this is warranted, this may be possible. You or your healthcare provider will need to raise this with the booking office when booking transport.

Will all patients be able to insist on travelling alone, and not share with other patients?

No. NHS funded patient transport vehicles are designed to carry more than one patient at a time. However, in very limited circumstances, it may be clinically appropriate for a patient to travel alone. These circumstances would include, but not be limited to, having an infectious condition or having MRSA in an open area or wound or where it would be unsafe in another way for a patient to share with others.

Can patients book NHS funded patient transport if they can’t afford to pay for another option?

There will be a proportion of patients who will qualify on financial grounds for support with transport costs, even if they are not eligible for NHS funded patient transport on medical grounds, via the means tested Healthcare Travels Costs Scheme (HTCS).

Details of the Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme can be found here.

I am in receipt of child tax credit do I qualify for some help with transport?

Not all benefits and tax credits automatically entitle patients to quality for assistance under the Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme (HTCS).

Details of the Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme can be found here.

How will the patient at home know that transport is running late?

Your transport provider will be responsible for keeping patients and/or hospital departments informed if they are running late.

How do patients notify the transport provider if they don’t want to travel?

As far in advance as possible, patients should contact the centralised booking service to cancel the journey. Even if you make this decision on the day, it is useful to let the centralised booking service know, as your transport may then be used on another journey instead.

What happens if I’m not ready when the transport arrives to collect me?

  • From home: Because there may be other patients being collected on the way, patients are generally asked to be ready at home to be picked up two hours before their appointment time. Should a patient not be ready when a vehicle arrives, the crew/driver will have to decide how long they can wait without compromising the arrangements for other patients. If the crew have to move on there is no guaranteed return to pick the patient up later.
  • After your appointment or treatment: Your return journey will have been booked for a set time. If you are held up and not ready when your transport arrives, they are able to wait for a short period. If the transport cannot wait until you are ready, a new booking will need to be made.

What happens if I am unhappy or feel unfairly treated, with the decisions made by the Centralised Booking Service? How do I appeal?

If a patient is unhappy with a decision to refuse non-emergency patient transport or reimbursement of travel costs or with the manner in which the policy has been applied to their individual circumstances, they should appeal to the Centralised Booking Service at Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust where it will be reviewed by a Senior Manager (01872 252211).

If the patient is unhappy with the outcome of the appeal, they can complain formally using the NHS complaints procedures. The Centralised Booking Service has local arrangements and procedures for investigating complaints which conform to NHS complaints procedures. Guidance on the NHS complaints procedure is available through the DH website found here.

The Independent Complaints Advocacy Service (ICAS) provides support to people in England wishing to complain about the treatment or care they received under the NHS. ICAS delivers a free and professional support service to clients wishing to pursue a complaint about the NHS. 

Is there a transport policy document published by NHS Kernow I can view online?

Yes, a copy of the latest transport policy can be found here.

Are there any easy to read patient transport leaflet I can view online?

Yes, a copy of the latest transport leaflet can be found here.

Where should I go for more information?

Contact the Centralised Booking Service on 01872 252211 or click here.