A helpline which provides practical transport advice to people who have difficulty in getting to and from medical appointments was officially opened in Elgin on Thursday, 31st January 2013.
The Transport to Healthcare Information Centre (THInC) will provide a dedicated telephone service offering guidance on accessing suitable transport options for the public to get to and from their appointments, where they may have no personal means of transport.
The centre, which is being run initially as a pilot, is the first of its kind in the UK and is the result of a joint initiative between Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire and Moray Councils, along with NHS Grampian, The Scottish Ambulance Service and Nestrans.
It supports the north-east Health & Transport Action Plan’s (HTAP) drive to help the public, including those in remote areas which are not well served by public transport, to access healthcare facilities. Eventually it is hoped that a system can be developed so that patients are given appointments which fit with available transport options.
During the period of the trial, THInC will only be available to patients attending the Outpatient Eye Clinic and the Dental School, both at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary. It will also be open to all residents living within the Moray area attending appointments at any clinic run by NHS Grampian.
A simple phone call to the information centre will enable staff to advise the caller about transport availability and how best to access it. The centre can provide details of suitable bus or train times as well as contact telephone numbers and other information for services such as local dial-a-bus or care-share groups.
Gerry Donald, chair of HTAP, said: “This is an ambitious project but one which we hope will bring considerable benefits to many people, in particular the elderly, the vulnerable and those in rural areas, who may not be aware of the public transport connections available to them or are best suited to their needs.
“Being able to pick up a phone and speak to a real person – someone who has all the available transport information at their fingertips, can answer questions and offer guidance will, we hope, go a long way towards not just helping patients meet their appointments but also to provide vital information that will help shape the network of transport availability in the future.”
Patients who are eligible to use THInC during the pilot will be sent the telephone number with their appointment letter.
The centre will record all requests for transport, including those which cannot be met in order to gauge the level of unmet need. The data will be used to inform future decision making on requirements for new transport services and to co-ordinate appointments with the availability of existing public transport.