"Carers no longer allowed to travel with patients"

About: Scottish Ambulance Service / Patient Transport Service

(as a carer),

My Wife has terminal cancer and is recovering from hip replacement surgery. She recently booked Patient Transport from home with the Scottish Ambulance Service for her appointment with her Oncology Consultant at the Dumfries Royal Infirmary. Both she and I (as her carer) were shocked to be told that carers were no longer allowed to travel with patients to hospital appointments as this had resulted in "patients missing appointments" in the past.

I checked the Scottish Ambulance Service website which had no details at all about this change in policy and in fact states on several pages that carers can travel with patients. I then phoned the Scottish Ambulance Service and the woman who answered told me that the policy had in fact recently changed because patients were missing appointments, therefore carers should find their own way there. She declined to comment further regarding the justification for the change of policy or for the fact that this was not reflected in the information on the website.

I believe this change of policy demeans the vital role which many carers play in supporting patients. Leaving sick people to travel for long and sometimes arduous journeys without the emotional and practical support which a carer can give is surely not justifiable, nor is the blithe assumption that a carer can easily find their own way to an appointment. Given that the Scottish Ambulance Service is part of the Scottish NHS and therefore the ultimate responsibility of the Scottish Government I will certainly also make my feelings known to my various local and national representatives.

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Responses

Response from Pat O'Meara, National Head of Ambulance Control Services, Ambulance Control Centres, Scottish Ambulance Service

I was very sorry to hear that you had problems getting back home from hospital with your wife.

The Scottish Ambulance Service does not have a carer policy but does have one for escorts. This allows people (such as parents travelling with children, or where the patient is blind) to travel, but is also very much to ensure that any escort can travel with a patient if there is a medical need for it.

Your experience just doesn’t sound right to me and I want to look in to it for you. I also want to make sure that our staff are giving out accurate information if they are not.

I can see that Ken Mitchell has replied and between us we can look at the circumstances of your request for you. I also want to make sure that if your wife has any future appointments or ambulance journeys that she or you do not have any problems.

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Update posted by colmcam (a carer)

Thank you for your response.

The booking was made by my wife mid morning on Wednesday 28 January 2015, we didn't note the exact time. Her appointment with her Oncology Consultant is for 11.00am on Monday 02 February 2015 at Dumfries Infirmary. The booking was confirmed, but when she asked if I could travel with her she was told that a new policy had been implemented and that patients could no longer be accompanied in ambulances because this had led to many patients missing appointments or being late.

My wife is 71, as am I, and has terminal cancer; one of the consequences of this was recent hip replacement surgery so she cannot get about at all easily so I wanted to travel with her and also to be there during her appointment. I therefore phoned the Scottish Ambulance Service booking line in the early afternoon of the same day and explained the circumstances, but got the polite but unhelpful response as described in my story above and confirming what was earlier said to my wife.

As your apparent new policy requires me to make my own way to the appointment on Monday I will do so by public transport as I do not drive. We live in Bridge of Dee, so this requires three buses to get to Dumfries Hospital and takes approximately 2 hours and the same on the return journey. I will reflect on your apparent new policy at the bus stops, but not kindly! At least I travel free.

I have informed the Dumfries and Galloway branch of CarersTrust in much the same way as my posting on this site as I think most of your 'Escorts' are likely to be Carers like myself. I think your apparent new policy therefore does help to demean the work of Carers and reflects poorly on the NHS, but that is only my opinion.

You say that a Ken Mitchell has also replied. I'm sorry but it does not seem to have got on to the website so I don’t know who he is.

Response from Pat O'Meara, National Head of Ambulance Control Services, Ambulance Control Centres, Scottish Ambulance Service

Dear Colmcam

I was very pleased to hear that you have spoken to the Scottish Ambulance Service and that your problem has been resolved. I’m sorry for the confusion regarding Ken Mitchell, who is a senior manager with us. He posted an identical reply at the same time as me and so one was removed.

Now that we have your booking request details, we will be able to look in to what happened and why you were told that there is a new policy. As I said in my earlier reply, there is an escort policy, but no new policy for carers or anyone else who wishes to travel as an escort to a patient and there is a medical need for that to happen.

Do please contact me direct on 0141 641 0858 if that is helpful to you.

Pat

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Update posted by colmcam (a carer)

Thanks for your response.

I'm relieved that your escort policy has not changed. Obviously, you have to check that there is a medical need in order to prevent the facility being abused but a blanket ban would be wrong in my opinion.

I accompanied my wife to her appointment yesterday. I was told by telephone the day before that it was OK for me to travel and we are grateful for this. I don't think that the Ambulance staff were actually expecting me but they checked back to Control which presumably authorised my journey and there were no problems. My wife has another appointment in four weeks so we are looking forward to a trouble free booking.

I'd like to add our appreciation of the local Ambulance transport staff, they are unfailingly helpful, friendly and efficient and frequently do a bit extra to make the experience easier.

Response from Pat O'Meara, National Head of Ambulance Control Services, Ambulance Control Centres, Scottish Ambulance Service

Dear Colmcam,

I was really pleased to hear that everything went well for you and your wife. It was also great to hear that the ambulance crew were so helpful.

If you could contact me a week or so before your appointment, I will make sure that everything is set up for you, My contact number is 0141 810 6101 - the number above is incorrect.

Thanks,

Pat

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