From next month terminally ill patients who need to visit the Hospice in the Weald’s day centre or leave the facility to attend hospital appointments will have to find their own way of getting around.
The development comes after the non-emergency NHS ambulance service that had previously transported them was scrapped.
Only last week, the hospice was awarded an ‘outstanding’ rating by the Government watchdog the Care Quality Commission.
The security company G4S took over the Kent and Medway Patient Transport Service last month after the previous operator, NSL, did not renew the contract.
The West Kent Clinical Commissioning Group (WKCCG), which bought the £90million service, has decided that the ambulances which have served the facility in Maidstone Road, Pembury – and another hospice in Medway – no longer qualified as non-emergency transport.
The CCG maintains the service had only been put in place as a gesture of ‘goodwill’ and did not meet the national criteria.
Rob Woolley, Chief Executive of Hospice in the Weald, says at least five patients will be affected by the cancellation – and that many more people facing the end of their lives will encounter problems in the future.
Hospice in the Weald runs a 17-bed in-patient unit, a day service used by 120 people a week, and direct support to about 700 clients in their own homes.
The service will run until September, by which time the hospices will be expected to have found another means of transport.
Mr Woolley is concerned that if the hospice has to rely on volunteers they will not be able to provide the specialist assistance required by some patients.
“Ninety per cent of our funding comes from the community we serve and only ten per cent from the NHS, which I believe is the lowest of the 220 hospices in the UK”.
He added most patients are already catered for by volunteers and family members, but a few would be seriously affected. “Four or five people who benefit from attending the Hospice Day Service should be empowered or enabled to get here by the NHS.
“And then other patients will be referred to us and they will need transport. Hospice in the Weald will not pay for their transport costs.”
Ian Ayres, Chief Officer at WKCCG, said: “Our contract with G4S is for journeys to and from NHS appointments for people whose health means they cannot get there in any other way.
“Although the hospice provides vital services for people who are reaching the end of their lives, and receives NHS funding in recognition of this, it does not usually offer NHS appointments.”
The CQC report praised the hospice’s range of social activities along with its empathetic staff, strong medicine administration process and the way it strives to meet the spiritual needs of patients. Its standard of care and responsiveness were deemed ‘outstanding’.