The independent London newspaper

Patients face long journeys for some hospital services

11 October, 2018

Cartoon by John Sadler 

• IT is far from clear whether some/all current patients at the Royal Free Hospital are aware that they may have to attend Chase Farm or Barnet hospitals for their future care as some services are being transferred to these hospitals.

Further it is even less clear if they are aware of the difficulties of travel to these venues. Taking a starting point of Gospel Oak, the TfL journey planner gives a time of one hour and nine minutes involving two trains and two buses and a 40-minute walk each way to Chase Farm Hospital.

Those who have mobility problems who might find walking and/or steps a problem can take two buses which take two hours each way. You could take a taxi, but that will set you back £30 each way.

I understand elective surgery is to be transferred to Chase Farm. The usual practice is for all such patients to arrive at 7.30am on the day of operation.

This could well mean an overnight stay if there are any nearby hotels in order to arrive on time. Given the vagaries of public transport you could arrive late and miss an appointment in the oncology or gynaecology departments.

This transfer of services, and it is not easy to find the details, is particularly problematic for those with mobility problems and the heavily pregnant and, of course, those who cannot afford the £60 cost of a taxi. The alternative is to exercise patient choice and request another, nearer, hospital.

It seems little consideration and less consultation has been given to the travel problems of patients or the impact on services. I tried to raise the issue with the relevant Camden Council health scrutiny committee but this was ignored.

A solution is, perhaps, a shuttle bus from the Royal Free – but there is no sign of this being considered at the moment. Transfers have already started and for some patients their first knowledge of this may well be when they receive an appointment letter.

Gospel Oak, NW5


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