Patient transport

The patient transport service is for people who can’t get to their appointments because they have a medical need for special transport.

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Non-urgent advice: Unsure if you qualify for patient transport support?

Call the Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust centralised booking service on 01872 252211.

If you’re going to a healthcare appointment for non-emergency tests or treatment, you’ll normally be expected to make your own way there using your own transport or the range of public, community and voluntary transport available locally.

Cornwall Council provides information about some of these local transport schemes (search for community transport schemes) and voluntary car services such as TAP provide a door-to-door service which is also relatively affordable, call 01872 223388 (TAP Cornwall) or 0845 053 9100 (TAP Devon). Volunteer Cornwall also has a community transport scheme. Call 01872 265300 for more information.

NHS funded patient transport

The patient transport service (PTS) is for patients who are unable to get to their NHS appointments or treatments because they have a medical need for special transport. To be eligible for the service, you must need support or assistance during the journey to your healthcare appointment.

PTS is for patients who have been assessed as requiring transport due to medical need, and is mainly limited to ambulance transport. The NHS is not able to provide PTS for social reasons, or for privately funded appointments and treatment, and there are strict national eligibility criteria for this type of transport depending on the patient’s medical condition and the amount of support or assistance required on the journey.

Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust (RCHT) now handles all PTS assessments and bookings for people in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly travelling to any NHS funded appointments and treatment, at any location. Patients who think they may qualify for NHS transport should therefore telephone the PTS office on 01872 252211 (Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm, weekends and bank holidays 9.30am to 5pm).

Non-emergency patient transport services

NHS Cornwall and Isles of Scilly is exploring options on the commissioning of transport services going forward, for people in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. At present the service is provided through a number of contracts spread across several providers. NHS Cornwall and Isles of Scilly is looking at how we can make it easier to make sure the needs of people are being met by:

  • improving the quality of services
  • ensuring they are better value for money
  • ensuring people access the right type of transport for their needs

Eligibility criteria for NHS funded patient transport

Patients travelling to NHS non-emergency healthcare are normally expected to use their own transport. They can also use a range of public, community, or voluntary transport. Some people may be eligible for NHS-funded patient transport on health grounds if they meet the criteria for support or assistance on or after the journey.

Whose job is it to assess patient transport?

For their first appointment, patients will be assessed by the centralised booking service. The service is clinically supervised and works within agreed rules and guidelines. For follow-up appointments, assessments will be undertaken by clinical teams, who request transport on behalf of the patient.

Call the booking service on 01872 252211.

Opening hours:

  • Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm
  • weekends and bank holidays, 9.30am to 5.30pm

What criteria needs to be met?

Eligibility will be assessed against the following:

  1. Requires the skills or support of patient transport staff, on or after the journey, to the extent that it would be detrimental to their condition or recovery if they were to travel by any other means.
  2. Impacts on their mobility, to such an extent that they would be unable to access healthcare, and it would be detrimental to the patient’s condition or recovery to travel by any other means.

Frequent travellers

We have identified that people who travel a lot for a specific medical condition may need access to the NHS-funded transport service.

This is defined as anyone who is required to attend hospital for:

  • at least three times a week for a sustained course of treatment lasting a minimum of six weeks; or,
  • at least six times a month for a sustained course of treatment lasting a minimum of three months.
  • at least 18 treatments for a sustained course of treatment lasting between three and six weeks
  • renal dialysis

My patient is eligible, what should I do?

If it is their first appointment, they need to call 01872 252211. For follow-ups, they need to contact the outpatient department, who will arrange transport for them.

For patients who are not eligible, transport coordinators can provide other choices.

My patient is not eligible, but they live in an isolated area and cannot access public transport, can they get help?

There are community transport services available to support people who cannot claim for NHS-funded patient transport. Call 01872 223388 or visit the Cornwall Council website for more information. Patients will have to pay for the cost of these services.

My patient is not eligible and is experiencing financial difficulties

People who are receiving benefits or on a low income may be able to have all or some of their travel costs refunded. This is part of the healthcare travel costs scheme.

My patient is not eligible and is unhappy with the decision, who should they contact?

Anyone who is unhappy with a decision can appeal to the centralised booking service. Call 01872 252211 and the team will arrange for a senior manager to review the decision.

Healthcare travel costs scheme

If you’re unsure whether you qualify for support either based on your medical or financial needs, call the centralised booking service on 01872 252211.

The healthcare travel costs scheme is part of the NHS low income scheme which also covers other expenses such as prescriptions and glasses. Through it, financial help with travel costs may be claimed by people who are referred for NHS treatment by their GP (or sometimes by their dentist). Visits to GP surgeries and dentists for routine care, as well as most emergency department attendances, are not included.

Who can claim on the healthcare travel costs scheme?

If you receive any of the following benefits you qualify for a full refund of necessary travel costs.

  • Income support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Working Tax Credit with Child Tax Credit.
  • Working Tax Credit with a disability or severe disability element.
  • Child Tax Credit (if the award letter confirms income is below the relevant threshold).
  • Pension Credit or Guarantee Credit.
  • Income-based Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

If you are not on these specific benefits but have a low income, you may still be eligible for a full or partial refund through the NHS low income scheme. You can apply for an eligibility assessment for this by using an HC1 claim for help with health costs form, see more information below.

How much can I claim on the healthcare travel costs scheme?

If you qualify, you will be entitled to a full or partial refund of necessary travel costs equivalent to the cheapest reasonable method of travel. In most cases this will be public transport. Taxi fares will not normally be paid unless agreed in advance. If patients use their own cars, mileage rates will be set at the advisory fuel rates specified by HMRC for company cars as a proxy for the cost of fuel at the time of travel. Read information on the HMRC mileage rates.

What documents will I need to make a claim?

You must provide your hospital appointment card or letter, original copies of any travel receipts, and proof that you are on a qualifying benefit. Or proof of eligibility for the NHS low income scheme or NHS Tax Credit Exemption Certificate, if applicable.

Is there a time limit for making a healthcare travel costs scheme claim?

Unless there are exceptional circumstances, claims must be made within 3 months.

Can I claim if I am visiting a patient in hospital?

No, the scheme does not cover visitors. You may be able to apply for a loan or grant from the social fund through your local Jobcentre Plus office.

Can I claim for someone to go with me?

Only if an escort has been agreed in advance on medical grounds. Or if a child of 16 or under is being accompanied by a parent or guardian.

What happens if the payment office is closed on the day of my appointment or I forget to bring my documents?

If you are unable to make a claim on the day you attend, you may be able to return for a cash payment at a later date. Otherwise you will need to use an HC5 (T) refund form, see further information below. Refunds paid in this way can take several weeks to process.

How can I get further information on the healthcare travel costs scheme?

The hospital where you are receiving treatment can advise you about making a travel costs claim. At most hospitals this will be the general office or cashier’s office. They will be able to supply the correct forms. Information and advice can also be obtained from the NHS helpline on 0300 330 1343, individual hospital websites and the NHS healthcare travel costs scheme web page.

Can I claim if I am receiving NHS treatment at a private or independent hospital or treatment centre?

Yes. As there are no cashier facilities at these sites, claims must be made using an HC5 (T) refund claim form as above.

What should I do if I am not happy with a decision that has been made about my claim?

Contact the relevant patient advice and liaison service (PALS) below.

Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust
Patient and family experience team
Tower block, First floor, Truro TR1 3LJ

University Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust
Patient services office, level 7, Derriford Hospital, Plymouth PL6 8DH

Patient transport for people living on the Isles of Scilly

During the COVID-19 pandemic we have been working with the Council of the Isles of Scilly, Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust, and Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust to ensure patient transport to and from the islands is as smooth as possible.

We have plans in place should anybody need to come to Cornwall for urgent outpatient or inpatient care. As well as repatriation back to the islands.

There are reduced services to and from the islands at the moment. Please be patient whilst we try to arrange the best possible plan for you. We will deal with everybody on a case by case basis. This might mean that your discharge from hospital is delayed and we might have to find you alternative accommodation whilst you are in Cornwall waiting for your return flight. The centralised booking service is still your first port of call for transport needs, call 01872 252211.

Help us help you

Our team may not be able to give you instant answers, because of the changing situation with health services. They may also need to speak to other departments to work out your individual plan. Please be patient with them and we will work together to solve any issues.

Any support you can offer to the NHS during these challenging times, such as using friends or family in Cornwall for transport or accommodation, would be greatly appreciated.

We will continue to keep you updated when the patient transport service return to business as usual and we return to the pre-COVID-19 eligibility criteria.

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