Honiton charity faces ‘substantial’ cash shortfall


- Credit: Archant

TRIP Honiton has lost a substantial part of its income after its role as a central booking agency was ended in favour of a new service.

A community transport charity has lost a substantial part of its income after its role as a central booking agency was ended.

TRIP Honiton received an annual fee to act as a telephone advice centre for patients looking to access transport across Devon.

But since the end of last month, all bookings for non-emergency transport in Devon have been taken on by a new central booking service – the Patient Transport Advice Service (PTAS).

A spokesman for the NHS Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said the service was created in line with developing a more ‘joined-up approach around social care, education and patient transport’.

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They added that the service, which was consolidated by the CCG and Devon County Council, gives access to a ‘wider range of transport options for patients than the voluntary sector organisations’. But Neil Hurlock, office manager for TRIP, said the charity will suffer financially because it is no longer required to carry out its role as a booking agency.

Though he did not reveal an exact figure, Mr Hurlock said that the lost fee accounts for around 15 per cent of the charity’s annual income. He said: “This will create a substantial shortfall in our income for the coming years, though it could be said it will ease the workload in the office.

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“We have already reacted to this by increasing the range of disability aids and mobility scooters that are stocked and by increasing sales of these items, which is beginning to fill the gap.

“Local people are finding that this is giving them access to more items locally, which saves them having to go to Exeter to find products that make their lives easier at home.

“We are also trying to expand the range of services that we provide with our vehicles, and planning a new range of trips to get people out and about.”

Mr Hurlock added that, this year, TRIP will continue to act as an information point for people who are not eligible for patient transport, and receive a small payment from the NHS for that service.

He believes it is ‘highly improbable’ that the charity will receive any funding from the NHS to carry out the same service next year.

The spokesman for the CCG added: “Under the national initiative titled ‘Total Transport’, further work will take place with a high level of collaboration between health and social care to further develop transport innovation for the residents of Devon.

“TRIP, along with other centres, has continued to receive money on a transitional basis to reduce the impact on patients and the voluntary organisation.

“Furthermore, the NHS has had a number of highly successful meetings with the voluntary sector to improve the organisation’s ability to provide transport services in the caring sector and be paid appropriately.

“There are also discussions in place around ways that the public sector can better support the voluntary sector where sustainability and financial viability are an issue.”

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