Ipswich Hospital cuts free transport for dialysis patients

Kevin McGrath
Image caption Kevin McGrath said some patients cannot afford to travel to appointments

Lives are being put at risk by the decision to end free transport to a Suffolk hospital for kidney dialysis patients, it has been claimed.

Ipswich Hospital will stop the free service for patients attending clinical appointments from the end of the month, unless they meet assessment criteria.

A spokesperson said the hospital was following national guidelines.

Kevin McGrath, who attends three appointments a week, said: "This really is a matter of life and death."

He lives about a mile away from the hospital but is too weak to walk to his sessions, which last about four hours each.

Mr McGrath will be one of about 30 of the 100 or so renal dialysis patients which the hospital says will no longer receive free transport.

'Can't afford it'

About 30 patients will continue to qualify through benefits and another 40 for medical reasons, such as being wheelchair bound, the hospital said.

Mr McGrath said he was concerned about other patients who have further to travel.

"We've got patients from Washbrook to Aldeburgh," he said. "If they're expected to fund their own taxis, people can't do it. They just can't afford it."

He has signed a petition calling for the hospital to reconsider the withdrawal of funding.

Catherine Morgan, associate director of nursing at Ipswich Hospital, said the hospital was following national Department of Health guidelines.

She said the hospital had to treat all patients equally.

Image caption Catherine Morgan said the cuts were following guidelines set by the government

"For renal patients, it's understandably a distressing and difficult situation," she said.

"However, there are a number of other groups, for example patients in the oncology department, who haven't had this service before and have to adhere to the national guidance.

"We're working really closely with patients, so if they feel they are unable to fund their own transport and they don't meet the clinical criteria for transport, we are helping them make appropriate claims.

"Patient safety is our biggest concern and we wouldn't knowingly put anyone's life at risk."

Michael Watson, director of information and advice at the Patients Association, said he was "deeply concerned" by the changes and called on the hospital to reconsider.

"I think they reflect a widespread problem within the NHS," he said.

"They're being asked to do more with less funding and less resources, and are struggling to even keep the services they offer at present."

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