The position is as set out below - I am grateful to Hampshire County Council and the NHS Trust for much of the information. As the local MP, and as one of those present at the launch of the bus two years ago- see picture - I am of course dismayed at the news that the service is stop at the end of the month
Following a public meeting in Andover in 2005 about the future of Andover hospital, it was clear that public transport was an issue for people travelling from the Andover area to Winchester for hospital treatment. Travel by train involved a change at Basingstoke; and travel by bus usually involved a change to get to Winchester -with either a long walk or another bus journey to get to the hospital.
June 2008 saw the launch of the new bus service from Andover hospital to Winchester hospital. This began as a free service but from September 2009 was a paid for service (with some exemptions), costing £1 per return journey. The bus made four return journeys each weekday starting at 8am from Andover and ending with the 5pm service from Winchester. The service was well publicised through the local media, GP practices and via local councils.
At the same time the Winchester and Eastleigh Healthcare NHS Trust was proposing to transfer surgery from Andover to the Royal Hampshire County Hospital (RHCH) in Winchester. That transfer took place.
Subsequently, a number of changes have taken place to reduce the need for transport to Winchester. Surgery – including surgery requiring general anaesthetic - has resumed at Andover. In addition, the Trust has increased the range of outpatient services available at Andover and to dramatically improve the outpatient facilities there.
Another reason for establishing the bus service was to reduce pressure on the congested car park at the RHCH. Park and Ride facilities were not in place and the number of staff parking on site meant few spaces for patients and visitors.
The Winchester and Eastleigh Healthcare NHS Trust has been the main funder of the bus service which is also supported by Hampshire County Council and Test Valley Borough Council.
Despite concerted efforts to raise funds and seek sponsorship, the Trust has been unable to generate enough financial support to cover or reduce its contribution to the service which is circa £42,000.
Figures based on usage from September 2009 to April 2010 show that, on average around about 30 to 35 patients use the service each week. Even with the addition of staff and visitors (who use the service to a lesser extent) the figure is only 2.87 passengers per journey.
The cost per patient journey is approximately £15 – this is higher than the passenger transport by car service (£12.69).
Even if the bus was full on every journey the income generated (£7,000) would not cover the £54,000 cost of running the bus.
The service is scheduled to be withdrawn at the end of August.
Parking for patients and visitors in Winchester has now improved, due to many more staff using Park and Ride and/or car share schemes.
At the same time the Trust has opened a new outpatients department in Andover and is continuing to broaden the range and number of clinics and surgery at AWMH in order to avoid patients needing to travel from Andover to Winchester.
In addition, the new telemedicine facilities at Andover’s minor injuries unit are also helping to reduce unnecessary journeys to and from the RHCH.
Other transport options
There is a direct bus service at some times of the day and one that requires one change at other times (about once an hour).
The train service requires one change at Basingstoke and the hospital is about 15 minutes’ walk from the train station.
The Trust has a responsibility to provide transport for patients with an assessed medical need for assisted travel and does this through a well established patient transport service. This is not affected by changes to the bus. Patients are initially assessed by their GP as requiring assisted transport. Patient Transport is provided by South Central Ambulance Services NHS Trust using a variety of vehicle types driven by employed and volunteer staff.
Assistance may also be available in the local community, through Andover Neighbour Care on Andover 01264 339899 or 404142.
Help is also available with the cost of travel if patients are in receipt of some benefits, proof of receipt is required.