Most people drive, use public transport, or rely on the kindness of family and friends to get to the doctor, pharmacist, or hospital on time. But, if you don’t have good access to transport, it can mean that you’re late or end up missing your appointment. It can be even harder if you need to attend regular appointments at a hospital for long-term conditions, such as chemotherapy treatment for cancer.
There are lots of reasons why you might not be able to get to NHS services easily for non-emergency issues. For example, we often hear from people who are physically unable to travel, can’t afford transport, or live in a rural area.
Here, we provide some information about the support available to help make this easier for you.
What support is available?
If you need help getting to appointments, find out whether you’re eligible for NHS-funded support.
If you can’t travel because of your medical condition
Ask your GP or the person who referred you to hospital whether Patient Transport Services run in your area. These services provide free transport to and from hospital for:
- People whose condition means they need additional medical support during their journey
- People who find it difficult to walk
- Parents or carers of children who are being transported
If you’re travelling on public transport
If you do not receive benefits, but you are having to make frequent trips by public transport, there may be weekly or monthly season tickets that can reduce costs, or options such as booking tickets online, which may work out cheaper than the full cost of one ticket.
For students, people with disabilities and those over 60 there are often options for reduced or free travel passes.
- In some areas, people can apply for a bus pass that allows you to travel free of charge if you're over 60 or above pensionable age (depending on the area).
- National Rail offers a range of discounts and concessions for children, people over 60, and people with disabilities.
- Local Authority websites will have details on how to apply for disabled bus travel passes. These can sometimes be also to include a companion traveller, depending on disability and mental capacity for independent travel.
If you’re visiting hospital regularly
If you’re visiting hospital regularly, you may find that there are options for you to receive discounted cost on parking. For example, some NHS Acute Trusts give out seven day passes for visitors/patients, for example during a maternity stay, where one vehicle that might be responsible for collecting the mother and new baby can have a free or reduced cost pass. This is not, however, offered everywhere.
In other areas, frequent visitors, for example patients with cancer or receiving dialysis or other long-term conditions may be given a hospital pass or free parking. In one area local Healthwatch were able to work with the Trust on introducing season ticket discounts for frequent visitors across three hospital sites.
If you’re driving to hospital, you can check its parking facilities before you go.
Could you get a refund for your hospital transport costs?
If you’re not eligible for Patient Transport Services, you could claim a refund for the cost of your travel or taking a child to hospital through the Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme.
You may be able to benefit from the service if:
- You can’t afford the cost of travelling to hospital
- You can’t get a friend or relative to take you
Depending on your situation, and where you live, you can also find voluntary organisations that can help you get to hospital. For example, the Royal Voluntary Service put older people who struggle to get to hospital in touch with local volunteer drivers. Age UK also runs door-to-door transport services for older people.
Need help finding support in your area?
To see what help is available where you live, get in touch with your local Healthwatch who can point you in the right direction.