Chief Executive of Scottish Ambulance Service to meet Highland community after patient transport complaints



3 January 2017

Persistence has paid off for a Highland community and an MSP who requested a meeting with the Chief Executive of Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) following complaints about Patient Transport.
Pauline Howie has agreed to travel to Lochinver in February to meet people in North West Sutherland after a plea from Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant, representatives of Assynt Community Council, patients and their families.
Mrs Grant wrote to Ms Howie after meeting constituents in Lochinver in August last year. The community wanted to talk to the head of SAS about the need for improvement for the whole of the area. Previously it had met with north representatives of the service.
Residents felt that there was nothing happening to change the current Patient Transport service for the Assynt area and that it was being run from a central point in the central belt which was not engaging with the rural population.
Moreover, it was pointed out there was no longer a bus service which would allow people from the area to travel to Raigmore Hospital and back in the same day, due to Highland Council subsidy cutbacks.
“I am delighted that Ms Howie is coming north as the journey will reinforce the community’s perspective,” explained Mrs Grant.
“What I have leant about people’s view of the service has troubled me, from problems with the system for booking Patient Transport, to patients reporting that they are ‘totally exhausted’ after some hospital trips due to the wide area covered for picking up people.
“The message from my meeting in the summer was that people did not want to abuse the Patient Transport system but wanted to ensure they could use it when it was really needed.
“This gives the community a chance to air their views to the person at the top and I’m hoping there will be a positive outcome for everyone involved.”
Mrs Grant previously received a letter from Health Secretary Shona Robison which recommended a multi-agency group be established to identify potential solutions to the co-ordinations of the timing of hospital appointments and the provision of Patient Transport.
The ambulance service told the MSP it had been working to improve its processes to make sure the Patient Transport service was as “patient centred and efficient as possible”.

In July it said it was going to be closely monitoring capacity management across Scotland and from August ambulance control centres would be advising on the point of booking whether they had capacity to support transport requests.

This was intended to provide patients with the opportunity to reschedule appointments in advance to move suitable day/time or to seek alternative transport arrangements. SAS said the intention was to prevent late notice cancelling of Patient Transport.