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Last Updated: Friday, 15 October, 2004, 11:47 GMT 12:47 UK
Patient, 91, faces 95 taxi fare
Elderly patient
A health watchdog says every pensioner should be entitled to free hospital transport
Elderly patients are missing operations and hospital appointments because they cannot afford to go to hospital, claims a health watchdog.

The Powys Federation of Community Health Councils says one 80-year-old man, who has waited a year for surgery, cannot afford the 60 taxi fare.

Another 91-year-old patient faces a transport bill of 95 to get treatment, it adds.

Both fall outside guidelines for free transport to hospital by ambulance.

These are set by Powys Local Health Board (PLHB) and it says it cannot help every elderly patient as this would tie up ambulances on emergency call.

But it said officials were working with voluntary bodies to provide extra transport.

If ambulances are being used as non-urgent patient transport, they are obviously not available for emergency calls
Powys Local Health Board

John Howard, chief officer of Montgomeryshire Community Health Council, said elderly people should be entitled to free transport.

"If people over 60 can get free eye tests, prescriptions, bus passes and people over 75 receive free television licences, why can't they get to hospital for free?

"There are some who abuse the system, but there are many who don't and for whatever reason have to travel to hospital by taxi."

Mr Howard said pensioners who required two people to move them or had cancer qualified for free transport.

"There is a PLHB definition of what clinical need is, but there's nothing about a person's age," added Mr Howard.

"And elderly people are scared of speaking out on the issue because of fears they will be victimised.

"But I have an example of a man who requires treatment at an orthopaedic hospital, near Oswestry, (in Shropshire) and his son can't take him so the patient has cancelled the appointment because he can't afford the 60 taxi fare.

"He's been waiting for 12 months for treatment and his case came to our attention after he wrote to us.

Hospital ward
Elderly patients say they can't afford to get travel to hospital by taxi

"My colleague at Brecon Community Health Council knows of another example of a 91-year-old person who can't afford to go to hospital in Hereford because it would cost him 95 for a taxi."

A spokesman for PLHB said: "If patients are experiencing particular hardship or difficulty in travelling for outpatient or other hospital appointments, they should contact the Patient Transfer Booking Centre on 0800 1695593.

"It is important to emphasise that the criteria for patient transport has not changed at all, it is also important to highlight that it is not possible to provide transport for all patients who need to travel for hospital appointments.

"If ambulances are being used as non-urgent patient transport, they are obviously not available for emergency calls.

"However, the LHB is working closely with the voluntary sector to identify additional non-emergency transport that will help patients throughout Powys."


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