Politicians debate hospital bus route
Published: 16 Oct 2013 17:000 comments
NHS Forth Valley is looking at implementing a Demand Responsive Transport (DRT) service to link patients and visitors with existing public services and believes it will offer a “more responsive” system.
However local MSP Keith Brown and Clackmannanshire Council continue to express concern over the impact any reduction in service could have.
Mr Brown said the provision of buses from the Wee County to the hospital was an “integral part” of the planning agreement to build the hospital in Larbert and that it played an important role in gaining support from local communities.
He explained, “At a previous meeting with representatives of Forth Valley NHS, I expressed the view that I am not convinced that DRT is right for Clackmannanshire.
“It is disappointing that Forth Valley NHS felt unable to accept an offer from Clackmannanshire Council earlier this year that not only would have saved them money, but also provided an improved service for the people of Clackmannanshire.
“I have a further meeting arranged with both the chair and new chief executive of the Health Board and I will continue to press the position that any changes proposed to transportation arrangements should not result in any diminution of service to my constituents in Clackmannanshire.”
As previously reported in the Advertiser, the health service is looking to cut the H1 and H2 routes due to it being under used.
It said in many cases the 30 seat buses travelling from Alloa to the hospital are either empty of carry an average of four passengers at a subsidy of around £28 for each return journey and a cost of more than £24,500 a month.
Under the new system people living in areas where it would take more than an hour to reach the hospital using existing public transport and residents living in a number of areas which would require more than one change to reach hospital would be eligible for the service.
They would book the DRT service which would pick them up at home before a drop-off at Tullibody (First Bus 60) or Kincardine to catch a connecting direct bus service to Forth Valley Royal Hospital (Stagecoach Express services X24, X26 & X27 from the end November 2013).
The small number of staff who use the existing H1 and H2 services to travel to the hospital for early shifts would also be covered by any new DRT service and the Scottish Ambulance Service would continue to provide patient transport for residents with serious medical or mobility issues.
Tom Steele, NHS Forth Valley’s strategic director of property and facilities, said the current services weren’t “sustainable or good use of NHS resources”.
He added, “We are keen, however, to support access to existing public transport links and this potential new DRT service provides a good interim solution while work continues to develop a community-led transport service which meets the wider needs of local residents across Clackmannanshire.”
Robert Walters, Chief Officer of the Clackmannanshire Third Sector Interface, added, “We have been working closely with NHS Forth Valley and Clackmannanshire Council, through the Community Transport Steering Group, to review transport services across Clackmannanshire and identify gaps. This will help develop a number of community-led solutions, including the possibility of introducing new community transport services, run by the third sector.”
Leader of Clackmannanshire Council Gary Womersley said the local authority is considering the potential proposal in detail and will give feedback through the formal consultation process.
He commented, “However, the council has previously made clear its concerns about the potential impact of any reduction in overall access to the hospital which could cause hardship and inconvenience to people in Clackmannanshire, particularly to the most vulnerable. The council didn’t oppose the siting of the hospital in Larbert on the basis that significant access concerns were addressed and I would certainly not be recommending to council any proposal which diminished access.”