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Written Statement - Plans for modernising non-emergency patient transport services

Vaughan Gething, Cabinet Secretary for Health, Well-being and Sport

On 14 January 2016, I announced far reaching plans to modernise the provision of Non-Emergency Patient Transport Services (NEPTS) across Wales. The plans had been developed in response to the recommendations set out in the McClelland strategic review of Welsh Ambulance Services.

It was intended that the plans would be in place by March 2017. I am now reporting back on the progress that has been made and the work that still needs to be done.

As a first step, I put in place the Regulations that allowed for the Emergency Ambulance Services Committee (EASC) to take on the responsibility for commissioning NEPTS across Wales on behalf of all the health boards. Following this, we have worked closely with EASC and the NEPTS Delivery Assurance Group to bring forward initial ideas for a Quality and Delivery Framework that will govern the commissioning of high quality services and provide the mechanism for challenging and monitoring performance. This is a similar approach to the steps that have been taken to help turn round the emergency ambulance service.

We have also worked closely with the Welsh Ambulance Service Trust to implement the wider modernisation plans. An important feature of the plans involved extending the hours of operation so that services would make it easier for patients to attend their health care appointments and return home safely. Non-Emergency Patient Transport Services are now available between 06:00 and 20:00 hours Monday to Saturday across Wales. In addition, patients can make a booking by calling a single national number 0300 123 2303 or cancel or amend the booking through on-line services that are available 24/7. This has improved access for patients, carers and health care professionals and has seen call abandonment rates fall from 11% to 5% whilst call waiting times have reduced to less than 1 minute.

As part of these arrangements, the Trust have taken the opportunity to introduce a “WAST Cab” service within SE Wales as an alternative to using commercial taxis and now provide an innovative option for providing overnight accommodation for patients who are travelling long distances on consecutive days often for cancer treatment. This will provide more choice and help to plan services in a way that will meet the needs of patients.

A partnership with the Community Health Council has helped to establish an Enhanced Service Reference Group (ESRG) that has been at the forefront of developing the ideas behind the proposals for a safer, more responsive and higher quality service for renal dialysis, oncology and end of life patients. Through this work, a range of measures have been put in place to significantly reduce the risk of patients missing their appointments and treatments that are vital to their care. The ESRG has reported that significant and sustainable changes have taken place over the past 12 months and this means that for the period ending March 2017:

  • the number of renal dialysis patients regularly having reduced treatment has fallen to 0 compared to 61 the previous year
  • the number of times a renal dialysis patient has received reduced treatment has fallen to 207 compared with 614 the previous year
  • the number of renal dialysis patients arriving before their appointment time has increased to 82%
  • the number of renal dialysis patients collected within 30 minutes of their appointment time to go home has increased to 78%
  • the number of oncology patients arriving before their appointment has also risen to 64%.

At the same time, the deployment of dedicated crews and vehicles has improved flexibility and resilience to support additional on the day discharges and transfers which have helped the plans for improving delayed transfers of care and wider planned care system.

To help support and sustain these service improvements, the Trust has appointed a new management team and this will provide greater visibility and ownership to drive forward further improvements. A new brand has also been designed and launched across the service to help communicate the change to the new business model. I look forward to seeing the brand become a distinct and recognisable feature of the NHS landscape that will become a beacon for high quality and continuous improvement.

The last year has seen some important changes made and these have made a real difference to patients. I am keen to see this momentum continue and to see the health boards and the Trust continue to work collaboratively through the NEPTS Delivery Assurance Group to put in place the Quality and Delivery Framework. Through these arrangements, I also expect to see firm plans emerging for developing local delivery arrangements through collaboration and partnership working across the wider public sector and with community and voluntary transport providers. There is a growing interest in this work across Welsh Government and the potential this has to promote efficiency and improve accessibility for local communities.

My officials and I will continue to meet with EASC and the Trust to make sure that the full benefits stemming from the proposals for change are realised.