Patient Transport Services - how your views are helping to reshape services

A year on from our patient survey on Non-Emergency Patient Transport Services, we take a look at what impact our reports have had.
Non-Emergency Transport vehicle

In August 2020, Healthwatch in Sussex (Healthwatch West Sussex, East Sussex and Brighton & Hove) carried out its fourth review of Non-Emergency Patient Transport Services (PTS).

In our latest report (attached below) we take the opportunity to describe:

  • Some of the impact that your feedback and our subsequent reports had
  • The work we have been doing on PTS since then.
  • How your feedback and our reports have influenced a national review of PTS, which highlighted the importance of the service:
“The review has found that patient experience, service quality and service sustainability vary significantly across England. Many services are good, but there is often scope for significant improvement.”
— Improving non-emergency patient transport services: Report of the non-emergency patient transport review, August 2021

What Healthwatch in Sussex did

In 2020, NHS Commissioners asked Healthwatch in Sussex to carry out a survey of patients’ experiences of using or applying for PTS services, which we conducted throughout September (our fourth review of PTS).  The CCG advised Healthwatch that our work would inform the recommissioning of the service, with a new contract due to begin in 2023. 130 people shared their experiences. 

To support the survey, we carried out a separate literature review of PTS reviewing over 30 publications and documents on the operation of patient transport in Sussex as well as nationally. You can read our full literature review report here.

Our survey of 130 patients identified high levels of satisfaction and that many aspects of the service were working well. The results also highlighted areas where improvements might be made.

This led to 14 Healthwatch in Sussex recommendations for improving Non-Emergency Patient Transport Services.

Our work was designed to inform and support Sussex NHS Commissioners as they prepared to recommission the service.

We wanted to ensure that the new PTS contract for Sussex (commencing from 2023):

  • Put patients at its heart
  • Included robust performance targets, and
  • That there was a smooth transition between future providers of the service (if a new provider was appointed).

What has happened since the Healthwatch in Sussex review?

Healthwatch raised your concerns and suggested improvements for the PTS service with Sussex NHS Commissioners and the current provider of the service (South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, SCAS).

We also shared your ideas for changing the service with potential bidders for the new contract in October 2020, and our results were fed back to those leading a national review of PTS, which we discuss below.

Since our reports were published, we have been working more closely with Sussex NHS Commissioners and SCAS who have provided responses to some of our findings. This collaboration has created a better shared understanding of running a PTS service.

Looking forward, we will continue to work with SCAS and Sussex NHS Commissioners to deliver patient forums.

The NHS National Review of Non-Emergency Patient Transport Services

In autumn 2019, NHS England announced a national review of NHS Non-Emergency Patient Transport Services to improve commissioning and provision. At the same time Healthwatch England announced that it would conduct a formal review into PTS, following publication of the joint report on patient transport, ‘There and Back’ produced with Age UK and Kidney Care UK.

Healthwatch teams from across the country fed into the review, including Healthwatch in Sussex.

In early August, NHS England and NHS Improvement published a report on its national review of non-emergency patient transport services (PTS). This new report highlights how the results from our Healthwatch in Sussex work has led to suggested improvements and changes for all PTS services. 

This review will directly impact on the development of a new contract for PTS in Sussex. For example, it is likely that standardised eligibility criteria performance targets and service specifications with apply to all PTS services.  We will continue to work with Commissioners to help them gather more patient insight on these themes.

A number of the measures included in the national review are also reflected in the findings that Healthwatch in Sussex made in its reports. Healthwatch is particularly pleased that the national review describes progress in the following areas:

  • A review of eligibility criteria for PTS (see below for details of sharing your ideas)
  • Emphasis on sharing better information on alternatives to PTS
  • A focus on providing transport for renal patients
  • Improved use of technology, and
  • Better procurement and contract management.


You can download the bulletin here. If you need it in a different format, please contact us at:

Healthwatch in Sussex Patient Transport Services One Year On October 2021

Share your views about eligibility for Non-Emergency Patient Transport

Healthwatch are pleased that the review has launched a national consultation on eligibility to ensure that patients, carers and social care service users agree with and understand the proposals on updated eligibility criteria. We are also pleased to see that the review highlights the need for discretion to the criteria be applied to support those whose transport burden is higher due to journey frequency, length, or costs.

Take the survey  Survey closes 25 Nov 2021

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