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Patients slam DHL for making them feel ‘guilty’ for transport

Courier firm contracted to provide travel to hospital tells pensioner she is ineligible for service

10 January, 2020 — By Sam Ferguson

Mary Wash: ‘They make you feel like you shouldn’t be living’

PATIENTS have complained about the hurdles they are facing to get help travelling to hospital after international courier company DHL took over the service.

The firm last year won the contract to provide non-emergency transport to and from the Whittington Hospital in Archway and Royal Free in Hampstead for people unable to make their own way due to medical conditions.

It is also responsible for the call centre that patients use to book transport, as well as the staff and vehicles to transfer them to their appointments.

Every time patients book transport with DHL, however, they have to answer a series of questions about their eligibility

Mary Wash, of Northview in Holloway, told the Tribune she feels patients are being discouraged from using the transport after trying to use the DHL service last month when her GP told her she needed blood tests and a chest X-ray.

Despite having used the service a number of times since DHL took over the contract, the 70-year-old was told she was not eligible for transport.

“They ask you the same questions every time you ring up,” said Ms Wash.

“I rang up this time and they asked all the questions again. Did I have a blue badge? Did I have an Oyster card? Did I have a mobility scooter or a wheelchair? Did I have a car? Could a family member take me?

“Then they ask if I can walk to the ambulance. I said that yes I can do that, it’s only a couple of steps to the car park outside. They said if you can do that you can get your own transport there. They actually said that.”

Furious, Ms Wash called the hospital directly, who contacted DHL and were able to make sure she made her appointment the next day.

But the incident has left the pensioner worrying over future appointments.

“I’ve got a cataracts operation coming up in February, but I’m worried if the same thing happens again then I won’t be able to get up there, or won’t be able to get home,” she said.

“They make you feel guilty when you’re on the phone to them. They make you feel like you shouldn’t be living. I’ve paid toward the NHS all my life and now this is happening. Personally I think they’re trying to get people off the transport with these questions.”

Healthwatch Islington have also raised concerns over the service provided by DHL.

In a survey released in December, the health watchdog noted “eligibility criteria are being applied more harshly” by DHL.

Other issues highlighted include late pick-up and arrival times, lengthy waits on the phone to book transport and difficulties for people who can’t use the phone in accessing the service.

In a joint statement, the Whittington, Royal Free and DHL apologised to any patients affected but insisted the problems have now been solved.

A spokesperson for Whittington Health NHS Trust said: “DHL has now increased the number of agents taking calls to book transport as well as introducing a new ‘virtual call queuing system’.

“This has had an immediate impact on the experience of patients booking transport and the average waiting time is now consistently under two minutes.

“Where patients feel that they have been wrongly advised that they are not eligible for patient transport an appeals system is in place and our patient advice and liaison team are supporting any patients who require assistance.”

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