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Travelling to dialysis – a way ahead?

Fiona Loud

Fiona Loud looks at how travel forms such a massive part of the patient experience.

  • Health inequalities

Getting to and from health appointments is a big part of patient experience.

Arriving late, being unable to park or pay for parking, all contribute to what may already be a stressful occasion. When you rely on transport services to get you there it can be even more difficult.

Imagine if that travel was for treatment to keep you alive, and you needed to do the same return journey 3 times a week. And each treatment was at least four hours long, plus time waiting to get onto a machine and be taken off, which is usually another hour. It can leave you feeling exhausted and unwell. That is the reality of dialysis for 29,000 people with kidney failure. During 2018 and 2019 we took a long look at the dialysis travel experience and service; our patient transport review was produced in conjunction with the kidney community and made some important recommendations for improvement. Transport is the lowest-rated aspect of dialysis patient experience and yet is absolutely fundamental as so few people can get to treatment safely without support.

During our work on this, we met with Age UK, who were putting together their own report, Painful Journeys. Thousands of older patients described how they or a loved one really struggle to get to hospital appointments, and that the support people get varies by the area in which they live. Meanwhile, Healthwatch England were having a national conversation asking communities how they wanted their local NHS to improve. A large majority of respondents said that it was travel to and from health care which needed focus. They also surveyed CCGs and once again found great variation in who does and does not receive help with travel.

These campaigns have now come together, with Kidney Care UK working with Age UK and Healthwatch England to produce a further report, ‘There and Back’ drawing a fuller picture of patient transport and travel. We are really pleased to say that the chief executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens, has now announced that a review of patient transport services with the 3 organisations as partners. Thank you to all the colleagues and partners who contributed to the various surveys and work to create the Dialysis Transport report.

Project plans now need to be made but it is progress. It’s good for kidney patients and a very encouraging recognition of the need to improve that which is so much a part of patient experience.

This is the link on our website with more information

Healthwatch England

Age UK