Plans to axe Welwyn Hatfield and Stevenage hospital transport service branded a ‘disgrace’
PUBLISHED: 12:12 19 October 2018 | UPDATED: 12:18 19 October 2018
Labour party candidates for Stevenage and Welwyn Hatfield have blasted plans to axe a subsidised transport service to the new QEII and the Lister Hospital.
The Health Shuttle is a door-to-door service covering Welwyn Hatfield, Stevenage and beyond to get patients and staff to hospital appointments.
However, citing “financial pressures on the NHS”, the East and North Herts NHS Trust which commissions services like this is considering shutting it down.
They say the service runs at a loss of £160,000 a year.
A spokesperson for the Trust claimed that hospital transport services are usually run by Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) rather than Trusts.
The spokesperson said: “Historically, [this] health shuttle service was established and funded by a number of local organisations.
“Other local partners withdrew their funding some time ago, leaving the Trust solely funding it.
“Given the financial pressures facing the NHS, the Trust cannot allow this position to continue and the service’s future is being reviewed currently with the local CCG.”
Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidates for both Welwyn Hatfield and Stevenage plan to lobby the board of the Trust as well as launch as petition.
Welwyn Hatfield candidate Rosie Newbigging - herself a veteran of the campaign group Hands Off Our NHS - has joined forces with Labour councillors and plans to launch a petition and to lobby the board of the Trust.
She said: “The suggestion that the bus could be removed is a disgrace ... I have already heard from many local people in the constituency for whom the bus is an essential lifeline to access services.”
The campaigners state that the transport was promised when the highly unpopular decision was taken to remove Accident and Emergency (A&E) inpatient services from the QEII.
Ms Newbigging continued: “A&E and in-patient beds should never have been removed for a population in Welwyn Hatfield of 120,000 and growing, with a projected increase of nearly 20 per cent of the over 65s by 2030,” adding that the services that remain are at “bursting point”.
She added that bringing A&E and in-patient beds back to the QEII is one of her campaign issues. “We need a new fully functioning hospital to serve local communities.
“Labour created the NHS and only Labour can be trusted to save the NHS.”
Jill Borcherds, Labour candidate for Stevenage, said: “The Lister is at bursting point. Waiting times for A&E and cancer care are repeatedly missing targets and the CQC inspection in the summer found that the hospital requires improvement, with surgery rated as Inadequate.
“We will do all we can to resist any further downgrading of local health services, including campaigning to stop the bus from being removed.
“The Tories are starving the NHS of cash and this latest move is a sign of the desperate state the NHS is in.”