VULNERABLE patients in Bury who use hospital transport are being failed due to poor timekeeping, according to a health watchdog.
A survey published by the Greater Manchester Healthwatch network found that the transport provided by Arriva Transport Solutions (ATS) is often late, which can lead to poor quality care.
In Bury, 56 per cent of people surveyed said they did not arrive to their appointment on time.
Out of the 23 responses received, four people had to wait between 10 minutes and 30 minutes, but seven people had to wait for a period of 45 minutes to two hours.
The survey questioned around 570 people across the region, and found that half did not get to their appointment on time.
Some said they had led to missing appointments altogether.
In response, ATS said the survey only questioned a fraction of their passengers, and highlighted that two-thirds of patients had said they would recommend the service.
Peter Denton, a spokesman for the Healthwatch network, said: “We are calling on Arriva and the commissioners of this service to make improvements so that our local populations receive the good quality, safe and worry-free service they are entitled to.”
Statistics also showed that a number of patients had to wait more than 90 minutes before they were taken home after their appointment.
One patient reported that they had spent nine hours out of their day on the appointment, having to wait five hours in total for transport to and from the hospital, in which they were two hours late for their appointment.
More generally, patients reported that there was a breakdown in communication in terms of booking transport and planning a journey, as well as not knowing how to complain.
Mr Denton added: “Not only is this worrying in terms of the patients’ health outcomes but it can also lead to a waste of NHS resources as hospitals and clinics try to rearrange activity around patients who arrive late, through no fault of their own.
“Although many people told us that they had experienced difficulties with this service, it is important for us to recognise that the vast majority also said that the frontline staff they dealt with were very good.”
Dennis Hajdukiewicz, head of Greater Manchester at Arriva Transport Solutions said: “I do accept that the results show that some people feel let down by the service and for this I am sorry.
“The issues that are of concern relate to timeliness or missed appointments.
“This survey was undertaken in January and although we had improved our timeliness in taking patients to and from their appointments since taking over the contract last year, at that time we recognised that we still needed to make more improvements.”
ATS was previously criticised at a public meeting called by Healthwatch Bury, one of the 10 local Healthwatch organisations in Greater Manchester which forms the regional network.
The non-emergency ambulance service was previously provided by the North West Ambulance Service, but ATS won the contract in April 2013.
ATS is encouraging people to offer feedback on the service by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org