As part of our North Central London (NCL) COVID-19 response we have been following NHS England’s national guidance for the non-emergency patient transport service (NEPTS) 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 use of face masks and social distancing.
In line with this national guidance, the NHS in North Central London will return to using the standard pre-pandemic national eligibility criteria for NEPTs with immediate effect.
This means that adults who were identified as clinically extremely vulnerable and who had been shielding, will no longer be eligible for NEPTS unless they meet the standard national eligibility criteria.
This change is necessary so that we can prioritise transport for patients that need it most. Our non-emergency patient transport services have been under greater pressure during the pandemic due to additional requirements such as social distancing. Returning to national eligibility criteria will mean access to transport can be prioritised for those with the greatest medical need.
For those patients who have an existing booking for non-emergency patient transport to hospital, this will go ahead as planned. No existing appointments will be cancelled.
Patients can find out if they are eligible for non-emergency patient transport by calling 03332 404 909 for an assessment if their appointment is at any of the following hospitals:
- Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
- Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust (which includes Barnet Hospital and Chase Farm Hospital)
- North Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust
- Whittington Health NHS Trust.
Patients who are attending University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust can arrange an assessment by calling 0203 456 7010.
Patients who are attending the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Trust can arrange an assessment through their clinical team.
The assessment service may direct patients who are not eligible for non-emergency transport to local voluntary services that may be able to help drive them to and from their hospital appointments.
Patients who have a low income may be able to claim a refund for reasonable travel costs for attending hospital for treatment or to have tests, under the Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme. Information about who can claim and how to do it is available on the NHS website or you can ask a question on the NHS Help with Health Costs Facebook page.
NHS England and NHS Improvement is currently consulting the public on their proposed new national eligibility criteria for non-emergency patient transport. Patients and the public are invited to share their views and feedback on the proposals via the online survey. The consultation closes on 25 November 2021.
More information is available on the NHS England and NHS Improvement website.