Hospital transport blunder means frail Bognor pensioner may never get to go home

The Patient Transport Service (PTS), previously run by SECAmb (pictured), was taken over by private firm Coperforma in April

The Patient Transport Service (PTS), previously run by SECAmb (pictured), was taken over by private firm Coperforma in April

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A terminally ill pensioner missed a potentially life-changing hospital appointment because her transport failed to arrive.

A friend of the 80-year-old cancer sufferer fears that because she has ‘deteriorated significantly’ since missing the appointment on April 25, she may now be too frail to have an operation which could have allowed her to stay in her own home instead of going into care.

The woman is now having to pay £425 for a private consultation and transport on May 25, having been told she would otherwise have had to wait until November for an NHS appointment.

The Bognor woman, who we have chosen not to name to protect her privacy, has been in Bognor War Memorial Hospital for ten weeks, recovering from a broken hip after a fall on February 8.

She has terminal cancer and her friend says she now weighs just six stone, the illness reducing her to mere ‘skin and bone’.

She was due to see a consultant at Southampton General Hospital on April 25 to see if she could undergo surgery to remove a growth on the base of her spine which is severely restricting her mobility.

She is currently bed-bound and her friend, a local businesswoman who also asked not to be named, says without surgery she won’t be able enough to return to her council house, which is her ‘one great wish’, and will instead have to use her life savings to pay to go into a care home.

Bognor Hospital say they booked the transport with private firm Coperforma and are passing the issue on to the commissioner. Coperforma has said it is carrying out its own investigation into what went wrong.

The woman’s friend, also her next of kin, said: “I don’t know who is to blame...all I know is we’ve now had to book a private consultation on May 26, because now the earliest NHS appointment isn’t until November.

“The consultation is £250 and the private transport I’ve booked is at least £175, so it’s £425.

“But that’s just the start, because if by some miracle she can have the procedure on her spine, that would I imagine cost several thousands privately.

“But I doubt very much if she is strong enough now to have it, she’s deteriorated so much, she’s six stone and looks like a skeleton.”

The friend said when she was originally due to see the NHS consultant on April 25, she was able to stand and move, after recovering well from an operation at St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester on February 8 on her broken hip.

“We will have to wait and see what they say, but now she’s so frail I really can’t see that they can operate,” the friend said.

“That will mean she will go into a care home. One has already said they will take her, but of course once she agrees, she will lose her council house.

“I’ve known her for 25 years, she worked in domestic services, which was very badly paid, and she saved every penny she had, she never once claimed any sort of benefits.

“If she goes to a private nursing home her life savings will disappear in a couple of months.

“She’s desperate to go back home having been in hospital for nearly three months now, but I just can’t see how that will happen now.

As previously reported, Coperforma took over the NHS Patient Transport Service from the South East Coast Ambulance Service on April 1.

Since then hundreds of people have complained of non-emergency ambulances failing to turn up, causing a huge amount of appointments to be missed.

The company had initially said it had no record of the booking for the lady from Bognor Regis War Memorial Hospital.

However a statement from Susan Marshall, chief nurse at Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust who run the hospital, said: “I have full confidence our nurses made the booking.

“Our thoughts are very much with this patient and her friends and family.

“We are investigating and will pass on all information about this to the commissioner of this service, as we have been doing with all issues relating to Coperforma.”

In a statement, Coperforma said: “Coperforma apologises for...’s missed journey and the resultant delay in her important consultation.

“The circumstances surrounding this booking and the failure of the service is being fully investigated, as are all complaints and service exceptions.

“Once the investigation is complete, Coperforma will report back to the patient herself, the NHS organisation involved and the CCG.”

The woman’s friend is now calling on whoever is responsible to foot the initial £425 her ill friend will have to pay for the private consultation and transport.

“I am disgusted and total furious with the whole situation, my fiend has been let down in the worse possible way by our health service,” she said.

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