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Transport community to help COVID-19 efforts

Published: 12 Apr 2020 18:33

Plans to help people attend medical appointments. 

Transport community to help COVID-19 efforts

Plans to help people attend medical appointments. 

New arrangements are being put in place to tap into the groundswell of support from the transport community to help people with suspected coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms attend urgent but non-emergency medical appointments.

The Scottish Government and NHS Boards, with the support of Scotland’s business community, have been working to make vehicles and drivers available to COVID-19 symptomatic patients who are well enough to travel but do not have access to a car and are unable to use public transport to reach their local COVID-19 Community Assessment Centre.  

These arrangements will also create greater capacity for patients to meet other medical appointments, should that become necessary.  Protocols have been prepared, in line with social distancing guidance, to ensure the safety of patients and drivers.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said:

“While we are asking people wherever possible to look after themselves at home, when symptoms do worsen or become unmanageable patients may be asked to attend their local Community Assessment Centre. This can be challenging where a person is well enough to travel but has no access to their own transport and is not allowed to use public transport.

“These new patient transport services will be in line with social distancing measures and make it easier for people to get the right help at the right time which will also reduce pressure on hospital admissions.

“The patient driver services are a fantastic example of Scotland pulling together to respond to COVID-19 and I must give thanks to all those who have volunteered their services so far. I am particularly grateful to Arnold Clark for volunteering a fleet of vehicles to our Health Boards, car hire companies for their offers of support, and the taxi industry for engaging so positively with us to secure additional capacity if and where needed.  

“So far we have received more than 100 offers of support from businesses across Scotland to help move people and goods, and we are working with health boards to explore and take advantage of these opportunities.”

Arnold Clark Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Eddie Hawthorne said:

“We've been working hard behind the scenes to keep NHS key workers and the emergency services on the road since our branches temporarily closed on 24 March following the government’s lockdown advice.

“Along with the hundreds of vehicles we have provided free of charge to the NHS and frontline emergency personnel to help them get on with their vital work, we are delighted now to be able to help patients too with this new transport service.

“We are proud of the valiant efforts our employees have made in response to requests from frontline workers across the country. On behalf of everyone at Arnold Clark, I'd like to say a heartfelt thank you to the NHS and all frontline staff for the incredible work they are doing in very difficult circumstances. We are proud to assist them in any way we can.”

Background

Patients who feel their conditions are worsening, have persisted for 7 days or are becoming unmanageable should call NHS 24 on 111 in the first instance. The call handler at NHS 24 will triage the patient pass their care over to their community Hub which is staffed by senior clinicians within their local health board area.  Patients can expect a call back from their those senior clinicians in the Hub who will assess the patient over the phone and if necessary give them an appointment at their nearest Assessment Centre (there are over 40 across Scotland). Staff at the Hub will also discuss the travel needs of the patient at this point, factoring in how the patient intends to travel, their frailty and other factors that might influence what they need and if required will organise the most appropriate transport for them to the Clinical Assessment Centres.

The Scottish Government has been working with Transport Scotland, the Scottish Ambulance Service, Health Protection Scotland, NHS National Support Services and NHS boards to develop advice and guidance for the transportation of COVID-19 symptomatic patients to Community Assessment Centres. The guidance makes clear that drivers should not be drawn from people at higher risk of severe illness as outlined on NHS Inform. Patient transfer issues and requirements will vary between geographic locations. NHS Boards have received local offers of assistance which they are building into their plans.