A new report from the Community Transport Association (CTA) and an alliance of local transport authorities has argued that the NHS is missing an opportunity to save millions on costs of getting people to hospital by not getting involved in Total Transport schemes.
The report stated that participation in such schemes would ensure that more Non Emergency Patient Transport (NEPT) provision was operated more efficiently using pooled budgets and vehicle fleets which could span current NHS NEPT, social services, education and mainstream public transport provision.
The report found that:
- The cost to the NHS of missed hospital appointments is estimated to be £750m per year;
- A survey of patient transport users in London found that 37% had missed an appointment due to patient transport in the last two years; and
- If 10% of the 5.6 million missed hospital appointments were prevented, the NHS could save £74.5m per year
An annual saving of £74.5 million would be enough to pay for, for example: 83 new MRI scanners (£895,000 each), 8,793 heart bypass treatments (£8,470 each) or 13,252 hip replacement treatments (£5,620 per treatment).
The report states: “A Total Transport approach coordinated by local authorities could bring a wealth of expertise and experience to the delivery of NEPT.
“Local authority transport teams are specialists in transport planning and have an extensive knowledge of what transport services are in operation across the piece. They are also experienced in procuring and managing cost-effective accessible transport, including that requiring a care component.
“Indeed, while it is usually commissioned by the NHS, NEPT has more in common with the social care transport commissioned by local authorities or with community transport than it does with emergency ambulances.”
The report also highlighted that NEPT is frequently commissioned by staff with no transport expertise and delivered by providers who have little incentive to seek improvements and savings.
Dr Jon Lamonte, Chief Executive of TfGM, who leads for the Urban Transport Group on transport and health, said: “With a growing base of evidence and experience to draw upon and at a time when public funding is particularly tight, Total Transport is an opportunity that needs to be embraced at the highest levels of Government, the NHS and local authorities. Although we do have some examples of good practice on the Total Transport involving the health sector, there is far more that could be done. We stand ready to work with our colleagues in the health sector to realise the opportunities to provide better access to healthcare at less cost to the taxpayer.”
Bill Freeman, Chief Executive of CTA said: “Total Transport presents a massive opportunity to improve transport into health settings through integrating both commissioning and provision, with a stronger role for the community to get involved and be recognised for this.
“Many people who need help into hospital fall outside current NEPT eligibility criteria which seems to only provide ‘business class’ or nothing. A better system would see many more needs met through a range of services differentiated by the assistance someone requires.”