Call waiting times for non-emergency patient transport are not meeting expectations

Local residents report difficulties booking non-emergency patient transport services.
Woman in vehicle used for transporting patients to and from hospital

Patient transport is a service provided for patients who are unable to attend hospital appointments by public transport or any other means due to their medical condition.

Patient transport services for local trusts including the Whittington Health NHS Trust, Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust and Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust are provided by DHL and bookings are made by calling 0333 240 4909, at which point your eligibility for the service is assessed.

One local resident told us that they had tried booking transport on more than one occasion and waited at least 20 minutes on the phone without anyone picking up at the other end. Waits of up to an hour for calls to be answered have been reported by other service users. In addition, carers have contacted us in some distress having been refused permission to accompany elderly relatives to appointments.

  • The Royal Free London's board papers state that the call wait time is not meeting expectations and that DHL has taken actions to ensure a better service.  

  • The Royal Free London has confirmed that additional call centre staff are being recruited and when the service is fully staffed, Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm, there will be 18 call handlers in total. Throughout the week, call handlers will be allocated to match peak times.

Emma Whitby, Chief Executive of Healthwatch Islington, responded as follows,

'Local residents have raised concerns that the new provider of patient transport was appointed without much consultation with patients and the public. Some people are worried that the provider may apply the patient transport eligibility criteria more harshly, meaning less people are able to access transport to their appointments.

We've heard from a Royal Free patient who called several times and couldn't get through. The Trust assure us that this is being addressed. Healthwatch will also be writing to all the local hospitals that use this particular provider to ask how call waiting times are monitored, and what the agreed standard is for maximum waiting times.

If you have used the patient transport service recently and have feedback to share, good or bad, we'd be really interested to hear from you.'

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