Thursday, October 18, 2012
How do patients with no money get home?
Measures need to be taken to ensure people with no money can get home from hospital following medical emergencies.
That is the view of a disabled Honiton woman, who was asked if she could make her own way home from the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital at night.
Joanne Emery, 35, of Roundball Close, is on benefits and had no money to pay the £30 cost of a taxi.
She was eventually brought home in an ambulance.
“Nobody should have to go through that,” she told the Midweek Herald. “It is ridiculous. I would like something put in place for people like myself who haven’t got any transport to get home.”
Acute hospitals run by the NHS are no longer responsible for providing patient transport.
Some patients, who meet strict criteria and have pre-booked hospital appointments, can claim refunds for the cost of transport, but they have to have the money to outlay in the first place - if they are using public transport or taxis.
Joanne, who has spinal injuries and Type 2 diabetes, was admitted to hospital by ambulance on a Wednesday evening after her blood-sugar soared to 22.8, a potentially dangerous level.
“I was taken to the accident and emergency department and I don’t remember anything - except waking up and being told I could go home,” she said. “I didn’t have any money and nobody to ask to come and pick me up.
“I had to tell the staff that I had no means of getting home.
“I was asked if I could get a taxi.”
Joanne is concerned that, as the recession leaves more people struggling to make ends meet, others will be left in the same situation.
She said: “I had to wait at the hospital while the staff there discussed my request. I was surprised they haven’t got a contract with a taxi firm.”
The Midweek Herald contacted the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust and, after explaining what happened to Joanne, asked: “What arrangements, if any, are in place to get people home when they have no financial means?
“Is this an area that could possibly benefit from the input of the voluntary sector?”
We pointed out that Joanne was concerned she took up the time of an ambulance for her journey home.
The trust did not answer our question but said in a statement: “NHS acute hospital trusts like the Royal Devon and Exeter have not been responsible for providing patient transport home for several years but we recognise there sometimes can be extenuating circumstances when a patient may need assistance.
“Ms Emery arrived at our hospital at 6.25pm and was clinically assessed as being well enough to return home at about 9.20 pm.
“We are satisfied that our staff correctly followed the guidance on this issue and Ms Emery would not have been discharged without having transport arrangements in place, but we did need to ask her first if there was a family member or friend available to collect her.
“On this occasion Ms Emery did not meet the criteria to have ambulance transport because she did not require medical supervision for her journey home.”
The Midweek Herald pointed out that Joanne had no transport in place and that, in fact, she was taken home by ambulance.
The trust clarified its statement by adding: “She did not meet the criteria but the ambulance option was available to us that evening to assist her because of her circumstances (no money and no relatives locally).”
Local MP Neil Parish was attending an animal welfare conference and was not available to comment when the Midweek Herald contacted his office.
Have you struggled to get home after being admitted to hospital in an emergency? Contact the Midweek Herald by calling 01392 888486 or email firstname.lastname@example.org