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Hospital link wait complaints

Patients say they are struggling to reach appointments at the Whittington and the Royal Free due to non-emergency transport being unreliable

14 August, 2020 — By Sam Ferguson

PATIENTS have raised complaints over a hospital transport service amid reports of missed slots and long waits.

DHL won the contract to provide non-emergency transport to and from the Whittington Hospital in Archway and the Royal Free in Hampstead last year.

The firm is also responsible for the call centre for bookings.

But the Islington Pensioners Forum say it has heard complaints for several months.

“We’ve been aware of it for a long time now,” said Forum chair Bob Collins.

“Before lockdown we offered a service at the forum where our receptionist would sit and help patients book transport, because so many find it difficult.

“People are finding having to justify booking an ambulance to someone in a call centre quite demeaning.”

Mary Wash, of Northview in Holloway, told the Tribune she missed a follow-up appointment at the Royal Free after a cataracts operation because her ambulance was late.

“You have to be ready two hours before your appointment, so I was waiting from 8.15am.

“By 9.30 nothing had turned up, and with my appointment at 9.30 I got concerned and called DHL. It eventually turned up at 10.40am. The driver told me he had only received the booking 20 minutes earlier.”

The Patient Advice and Liaison Service at the Royal Free told Ms Wash they would raise an official complaint on her behalf.

“It’s dehumanising,” added Ms Wash. “I’ve paid taxes my whole life, and now when I need these services I can’t rely on them.

“Getting home afterwards is a lottery. Sometimes you wait an hour, as you’re told to expect, but I’ve seen patients at the hospital who have waited for four hours to get a lift home.”

The Royal Free said on behalf of DHL: “Waiting-time targets continue to be met by DHL. DHL has spoken to the patient [Ms Wash] to apologise that she was picked up late. This was due to a system error. DHL are looking into this to ensure it does not happen again.”

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