7:00am Thursday 31st January 2013
By Jim Jack
A 76-year-old man who has suffered six heart attacks has been told he is “not ill enough” to get transported to hospital.
Arthur Walker, of Weston Drive, Otley, has also had two triple heart by-pass operations, suffers from sciatica and angina, and needs support sticks to walk.
His health problems are so severe – he had his first heart attack at the age of 39 – that he was told to give up work when aged just 43.
While living in south Yorkshire, Mr Walker received Patient Transport Service help to get to hospital appointments for years.
So he was stunned when, upon asking his Otley GP to arrange transport so he could make an appointment in Leeds, he was told he “didn’t meet the necessary criteria”.
He said: “I am so angry about this. I have had six major heart attacks and two cardiac arrests – I've been dead twice – and yet I’m being told I’m ‘not ill enough’ to get transport help.
“I actually moved up here only a few months ago, on doctor’s advice, from south Yorkshire where I never had any trouble getting help from Yorkshire Ambulance Service – and it’s the same service here!
“How ill do you have to be? I’ve had six major heart attacks, I can’t walk any distance and need two sticks when I go out because of my sciatica and other problems, and I’ve had veins out of my legs for the bypass operations.
“But from the copy of the guidelines I’ve been sent it looks like you’ve either got to be on a stretcher or in a wheelchair.
“It seems if you can walk at all you don’t qualify, no matter how ill you are.
“I always got transport help before, so what has changed?”
Yorkshire Ambulance Service says it only takes bookings as requested by doctors and other health professionals working to guidelines which, in this area, are overseen by NHS Airedale, Bradford and Leeds.
A spokesman for NHS Airedale, Bradford and Leeds said: “The criteria used to assess whether patients are eligible for non-emergency NHS transport are set nationally by the Department of Health.
“Following this national guidance, a patient’s GP will make an initial decision on whether they need transport, which is based on their health and personal circumstances at the time of their assessment.
“It is good practice for patients to be regularly reassessed when requesting patient transport, to ensure that they are still eligible to access this service on the NHS.
“Support is available for some patients who are not eligible. People on a low income or those who receive certain benefits can get financial help for the cost of travel to healthcare appointments through the NHS Healthcare Travel Cost Scheme.
“Information about the scheme can be found on the NHS Choices website, or by contacting NHS Direct on 0845 46 47.”
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