CCG statement on the discontinuation of the Shuttle Bus service

NHS Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group (HRW CCG) have announced the decision to end funding of the current bus service between The Friarage Hospital, Northallerton and James Cook University Hospital, Middlesbrough.

The decision was made at the CCG Governing Body meeting earlier today (26 May 2016). The full meeting papers are now available to view on the CCG’s website: https://www.hambletonrichmondshireandwhitbyccg.nhs.uk/26-may-2016

The CCG introduced the “Shuttle Bus” service in November 2014 as a pilot to support users of those services affected by the reconfigured maternity and paediatric services.

Dr Charles Parker, local GP and Clinical Chair of HRW CCG Governing Body said:

“I would like to thank passengers for their honest feedback during recent engagement and since the service was first introduced. It is with regret that the CCG Governing Body have today (26 May 2016), agreed not to continue to fund the Shuttle Bus service.

“The current service will therefore continue until 6pm Thursday 30 June 2016 when the contract ends.

“The Governing Body appreciate that this decision will be disappointing and concerning for some patients. We are collating details of alternative transport options which include the Patient Transport Service, the train service to James Cook station, all commercial bus services and voluntary transport schemes. These are now available on the CCG’s website (https://www.hambletonrichmondshireandwhitbyccg.nhs.uk/transport) and will continue to be added to. Information will also be made available at GP practices across Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby.

“The CCG, along with many other NHS organisations, has been asked to make savings for 2016/17 in order to deliver a balanced financial position, which we are statutorily required to do. Therefore, we have to make some really difficult commissioning decisions.

“As a CCG covering a huge area, we have to ensure we spend money on services fairly across Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby. We know from research that the Shuttle Bus service was not running to full capacity, nor serving a significant amount of people affected by the reconfiguration of maternity and paediatric services. Therefore, in comparison to other service the CCG funds, the Governing Body decided that the £90,000 cost to run the Shuttle Bus was better used in other areas.

“Transport is a challenge for some of our patients and we are currently working with our partners to address these issues. We are also looking at other options such as bringing care and services closer to home where possible through the “Transforming Our Communities” work. Over the past couple of months the CCG and South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust have been meeting patients across Hambleton and Richmondshire to share these proposals and get feedback, which has been very positive to date.

“The CCG continues to provide non-emergency Patient Transport Service (PTS) for those found eligible under national criteria. Information regarding this service can be found at local GP practices or by calling 0300 330 2000.

“Patients on low incomes or those in receipt of qualifying benefits may be able to claim reasonable travel costs to and from appointments under the Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme: http://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/Healthcosts/Pages/Travelcosts.aspx

ENDS

For further information please contact the HRW CCG Communications and Engagement Team on 01609 767621.

Background

The CCG’s responsibility for commissioning transport is confined to two principal areas:

  • Accident & Emergency Ambulance Services
  • Patient Transport Services (PTS) for patients who have confirmed medical and/or mobility issues that meet nationally agreed criteria.

The bus service, known as the “Shuttle Bus”, was originally introduced as a pilot scheme in October 2014, funded by the CCG.

The shuttle bus service travels between the two hospital sites a total of ten times per day, and is time tabled to operate Monday to Friday inclusive (excluding public holidays). The service is currently free of charge to all passengers.

The current (2015/16) annual contract for the shuttle bus service is £88,200.

The primary role of the shuttle bus service has been to support, free of charge, patients, their carers and families affected by the reconfiguration of Paediatric and Maternity services in travel between the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton and the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough, following emergency transfer.

Shortly after commencement, due to low demand and an attempt to utilise all available capacity, the eligibility for passengers to travel on the shuttle bus service was relaxed. Therefore all empty spaces on the service were made available to any staff or public who needed to travel between the two hospital sites, while still remaining free of charge to all.

In March 2015 the shuttle bus pilot was extended for twelve months until 31 March 2016, in order to provide sufficient time to evaluate the uptake and impact of the service.

In January 2016 the CCG commenced an evaluation of the service to gain a greater understanding of the public’s use and perception of the service prior to the end of the pilot period.

The Governing Body paper compares average passenger numbers and the % of bus capacity being utilised since the service started: https://www.hambletonrichmondshireandwhitbyccg.nhs.uk/26-may-2016

In order to more fully evaluate the service and understand the public’s views, a public engagement exercise regarding the future of the shuttle bus service was introduced between Tuesday 3 May 2016 and Tuesday 17 May 2016 inclusive. The contract was extended until 30 June 2016 in order to accommodate this public engagement.

The public engagement consisted of both on-line and hard copy (available on the bus service) options and included a covering letter and questionnaire.

The detailed results of the engagement exercise are attached at Appendix 2 of the Governing Body paper: https://www.hambletonrichmondshireandwhitbyccg.nhs.uk/26-may-2016

At the time of commissioning the shuttle bus service, no commercial bus service was in operation linking the two hospital locations.

During 2015 a commercial bus service which stops on or close to both hospital sites commenced and this service remains in operation.

There are a number of community car schemes running across Hambleton and Richmondshire to which the CCG contributes £20,995 per annum to support their operation.

There is also a train service between Northallerton and James Cook stations (which includes a change at Middlesbrough station).

Details of other transport options can be found on the CCG website: https://www.hambletonrichmondshireandwhitbyccg.nhs.uk/transport

Frequently asked questions around the Shuttle Bus (published April 2016) can be found on the CCG website: https://www.hambletonrichmondshireandwhitbyccg.nhs.uk/questions-answers