Talks needed to stop vital hospital visits being missed

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Community transport services are being stretched to “breaking point” by people needing to attend hospital appointments.

John Phillips, the founder of Sudbury’s Go START group and director of Suffolk Community Transport, said organisations were struggling to cope due to NHS cuts which had restricted free access to hospital transport for some patients.

He said urgent talks were needed with NHS chiefs to solve the problem and stop crucial appointments being missed.

“Community transport operators are now at breaking point and are no longer able to meet the rising demand for hospital transport,” he said.

“Many vulnerable people are unable to find a way of getting to their hospital appointment, which could seriously jeopardise their long-term health.”

The NHS in Suffolk and Norfolk introduced a “single point of assessment” in 2011, meaning patients were no longer given free access to hospital transport by asking their GPs.

The move is thought to have saved around £300,000 across the two counties.

A spokesman for the NHS said patients eligible for free transport were still receiving it, adding that talks would take place later this month.