What is patient transport?
Patient transport is a service provided for patients who are unable to attend hospital appointments by public transport or any other means (including private minicab) due to their medical condition.
Can I use patient transport?
Wherever possible, patients are required to make their own way to and from hospital appointments. If your medical condition affects your ability to travel independently (including with the help of friends, relatives or carers), our transport service can assess whether you meet the Department of Health and Social Care's criteria for eligibility to use this service.
Non-emergency patient transport services during the COVID-19 pandemic
As part of our COVID-19 response we have been following NHS England’s national guidance for non-emergency patient transport services to support patients who were identified as ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’, advised to follow shielding guidance and without access to a private car, to attend essential hospital appointments during periods of lockdown.
In September 2021, the Department of Health and Social Care issued a letter to patients who were previously identified as clinically extremely vulnerable, informing them that the shielding programme had ended. These patients were advised that they would not be required to follow specific guidance and were recommended to follow the same general guidance as the rest of the population, such as the use of face masks and social distancing.
In line with this national guidance, the NHS in north central London is returning to using the standard pre-pandemic national eligibility criteria for non-emergency patient transport services with immediate effect.
his means that adults who were identified as clinically extremely vulnerable and who had been shielding, will no longer be eligible for non-emergency patient transport services unless they meet the standard national eligibility criteria, as outlined below. This change is necessary so that we can prioritise transport for patients that need it the most.
To find out if you are eligible for patient transport and to make a booking, please contact our call centre on: 0333 240 4909 (open Monday to Friday, 8am-5pm).
Patient transport service
Our patient transport services are operated by DHL.
Access to patient transport is based on medical need and we follow the Department of Health and Social Care's (DHSC) eligibility guidance. Patients or their representatives who are seeking transport can make a booking via our call centre on 0333 240 4909.
The call centre uses assessment questions for each booking to determine a patient's right to access NHS-funded transport.
The DHSC eligibility criteria restrict transport to patients whose clinical condition means that travelling by any other means would be detrimental to their recovery or existing condition, such as (but not limited) to:
- patients who need to be transported on a stretcher
- some wheelchair patients
- some patients receiving oxygen
- patients who require paramedic services
- patients who need the support of patient transport staff during the journey
Ability to pay for travel
Patient transport is provided based on medical need only and not whether the patient can afford the cost of their journeys to and from appointments. Some patients on a low income may be eligible for reimbursement of travel costs through the healthcare travel costs scheme (HTCS). This funding can also be issued in advance, either per journey or in a block sum, depending on the frequency of travel.
How is hospital transport booked?
You should contact the transport assessment team on 0333 240 4909 (open Monday to Friday, 8am-5pm) to find out if you can apply for this service. If you need help to request hospital transport, a friend, relative or carer can call on your behalf.
Your eligibility for hospital transport will need to be reassessed each time.
What does the assessment involve?
This is a short, confidential telephone interview to assess your transport needs.
How much notice should I give?
You can book your transport up to four weeks in advance and two working days before your hospital appointment.
Your booking may not be accepted if you do not contact us at least two working days before your appointment.
Late requests for patient transport will be prioritised for patients who have been asked to attend an hospital appointment with less than two working days notice.
What can I do if I am not eligible for transport?
If you are not happy with the outcome of your assessment, you can appeal the decision, this will be handled directly by the assessment centre. The decision will then be reviewed by the nurse team.
If you are not happy with this decision, you can appeal to our complaints department.
If you are eligible for patient transport
Will you confirm my booking?
We will contact you three days before and on the day of your hospital appointment to confirm your transport arrangements.
On the day, you will receive an SMS text message or a phone call confirming the time your transport will arrive.
If you no longer need transport, please call 0333 240 4909 to let us know.
When will I be collected?
You will be collected up to two hours before your hospital appointment. However, this may be longer depending on your postcode to allow enough time for you to arrive before your appointment. Please be ready when transport arrives as drivers cannot wait more than 10 minutes.
What happens when I get to the hospital?
The transport team will ensure you are taken to your appointment.
What happens when I'm ready to go home?
Please let a member of staff know and they will arrange for a porter to take you to the transport lounge at the Royal Free Hospital. If your appointment has taken place at one of our other locations, including Barnet Hospital and Chase Farm Hospital, please let the clinic team know, and they will advise the transport team know you are you are ready to go home.
We will try to get you home as soon as we can. However, you may have to wait up to 120 minutes to be collected.
It is important to note that journeys are planned to make the most effective use of our vehicles. This means that other patients may share the same vehicle with you.
Can I have an escort?
We use Department of Health and Social Care guidelines to decide whether an escort is appropriate. We will do this as part of the assessment process.
If your appointment is changed, or you cannot attend your appointment, please ring us as soon as possible on 0333 240 4909 to avoid wasted journeys.
Transport assessment team
Telephone: 0333 240 4909 (Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm)
For Barnet Hospital or Chase Farm Hospital email firstname.lastname@example.org
For the Royal Free Hospital email email@example.com.
Booking patient transplant leaflet (updated 29/11/2021)
Do you have an appointment?
Royal Free London
Contact numbers for patients
Transport booking line 0333 240 4909 open 9am-5pm Monday to Friday (Except bank Holidays)
Patients who have queries about patient transport or would like to appeal a decision can contact the Royal Free Hospital patient advice and liaison service (PALS) on 020 7472 6446 or 020 7472 6447.