PATIENTS using the new transport service to hospital are so upset at delays that they claim it is “only a matter of time before somebody dies”.
Problems with the service, which was taken over by Arriva Transport Solutions on December 1, are begining to pile up as it struggles to cope with patient demand, particularly in more rural areas.
Patients needing kidney dialysis, radiotherapy or blood transfusions have all experienced delays or cancellations in their transport into hospital since Arriva took over from the South West Ambulance Service.
Dorothy Davies, 78, from Cinderford, has cancer.
She has had three strokes this year and needs regular blood transfusions due to an immune system deficiency.
But Arriva have regularly left her waiting, according to her family.
Her husband Ken, 80, has also faced delays in being taken home following treatment at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital for a heart complaint.
He said: “We have used the transport service for around 18 years and before Arriva took over it was 100 per cent.
“But since Arriva took it over, we have had problems. The ambulance didn’t turn up to get my wife down to Bristol for a blood transfusion.
“She had to get up at 6am to get ready for the 8am pick up because she needed her medication. It was upsetting for her.
“The next day she finally went in for treatment and was told an ambulance would be waiting to take her home at 1pm. There was nothing for her. Arriva had to get another company to come and take her home.
“It wasn’t the first time. The staff were rude and ignorant and didn’t seem to be that bothered.”
He added: “I went into hospital for a check up on my heart last week and this lad who was taking me home said he had no idea how to get there.
“I had to show him the way home, he was so underprepared and it makes it very stressful for us.
“The service has got worse if anything since the start of December. Arriva has employed a load of staff who know nothing about the Forest of Dean.”
Ken needs to visit hospital again on January 7 but is worried about not being picked up and that his health may suffer as a result.
He added: “My wife is completely disabled and to leave her without transport is completely diabolical.
“It is only a matter of time before somebody dies.
“I have to be in for exactly 12.30pm on January 7 as I’m going on the operating table for three hours.
“We want assurances that these appointments will be kept. Arriva needs to pull its finger out fast.
“If nothing is done somebody will lose their life.”
Ed Potter, head of the South West at Arriva Transport Solutions said: “We do not consider any delays to patient journeys to be acceptable.
“This week we put in place a specific plan of action for the patient and the last three days have seen his journeys run smoothly without delay.
“Ensuring that we deliver a safe and reliable service to our patients is our highest priority and as such we are very concerned and sorry about the transport delays experienced. We have spoken to the patient to apologise for any distress this has caused.
“We would like to reassure all our patients that despite some initial delays, we are working closely with commissioners, hospital staff and patient representatives to ensure that this service beds down quickly and ultimately delivers a better service to patients moving forward than has been provided previously.”
Arriva Transport Solutions Ltd (ATSL) is a specialist transport business within the Arriva group offering bespoke services to meet specific transport needs across health and social care sectors.