Healthwatch’s role in improving Sussex Non-Emergency Patient Transport receives recognition

February 1, 2024

Patient engagement work carried out by Healthwatch in Sussex was praised at the January Brighton and Hove City Council’s Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee. You can read more to discover how patient experiences have helped to positively influence the commissioning of a key local service.

Improving the patient experience of using the Non-Emergency Patient Transport Service (NEPTS) has been a priority for Healthwatch.

NEPTS is designed for people whose condition means they need support to and from hospital and other medical appointments.

The service picks up and drops off patients for scheduled appointments, primarily at hospitals. The service is reserved for people who have no other way of getting to their appointments or need specialist assistance and as such, eligibility criteria apply.

Since 2016, the three Sussex Healthwatch teams have worked together to collate nearly 600 patient experiences from four separate reviews. Our latest review in 2020 showed high levels of patient satisfaction with the service, which is run by South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SCAS). Healthwatch has also reported on the past failures of the service in 2016. You can read more about our work and it’s impact here.

Over the last year, Healthwatch has worked closely with Sussex NHS Commissioners to ensure that what patients told us in 2020, regarding improvements to the current service, were reflected in the revised Service Specification for the new contract, which will go live in April 2025.

Commissioners for NEPTS have welcomed both Healthwatch and additional patient representation into their work when developing the new contract. They invited Healthwatch to join the NEPTS Communications and Engagement Task and Finish Group, through which we were able to influence the final wording and requirements set out in the Service Specification.

Healthwatch has also evaluated bids to deliver the new contract, along with other patient representation. Our focus has been on how well any new provider will keep patients informed about where their transport is; the ease with which patients will be able to track their vehicles; the establishment of regular patient forums (to deliver ongoing improvement); the provision of alternative services for those who are ineligible for NEPTS and the correct application of eligibility criteria.

Healthwatch commends NHS Sussex Commissioners leading on NEPTS for their openness and transparency and for actively involving patient groups in their work.

In 2021, Healthwatch fed into a national review of the NEPTS to ensure that the views of Sussex patients were reflected.

Praise for our work and its impact

The Health and Wellbeing Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) scrutinises NHS services across Brighton and Hove. It is one of the statutory consultee bodies for major changes in local health provision. The HOSC has responsibility for scrutinising children’s and adult social care services in the city, sharing the role with the relevant policy committees. The HOSC also carries out a lot of its work through workshops and scrutiny review panels.

At the January HOSC, the Committee received papers on Non-Emergecny Patient Transport. Healthwatch provided an advance briefing paper to members describing our extensive research and engagement. The work of Healthwatch and its role in escalating the voice of patients was recognised by NHS Sussex Commissioners:

““The contract currently being tendered reflects the findings of the 2021 national review (in which Sussex was one of 3 pathfinder sites), learning taken from the previous procurement, feedback from system partners and patient groups, including Healthwatch, with Healthwatch in Brighton playing a significant role in service design, development and evaluation of the bids received.“

“Commissioners for NEPTS have welcomed both Healthwatch and additional patient representation into their work when developing the new contract specification. This has taken the form of regular attendance by Healthwatch at NEPTS Task and Finish groups, inviting comment on draft Service Specifications and involving patient representation in the assessment of bids to deliver the new service.”

“It is also clear from patient feedback obtained by Healthwatch in 2020 that patients want a service that is better able to keep them informed of the location of their vehicle using modern technology such as smart phone apps, for example, almost 80% would like to receive a text/call when their vehicle is 30 mins away; 95% would like to be kept informed of changes or delays to their transport; 2/3rds would like a mobile phone app to track their vehicles; and 91% would like an exact time when their transport will arrive.  With all this in mind, NHS Sussex has consolidated funding sources across acute and mental health providers and developed a vision for a new patient transport offer that includes all components and that will better meet the requirements of patients and the healthcare system in 2025 and beyond.”

3.2 Engagement Work 

“As part of the development process for the new service, NHS Sussex has completed a full Equalities and Health Impact Assessment (EHIA); carried out engagement with patient groups; and worked closely with acute, community and mental health providers to develop the service model. NHS Sussex commissioning team also enlisted the support of Healthwatch Brighton & Hove and a patient voice representative from the outset of the procurement to help draft elements of the specification and join weekly engagement sessions to ensure quality, engagement and patient voice were at the heart of the service design. Healthwatch has given very positive feedback to the commissioning team on the openness with which we involved – and listened – to the patient voice.”

How patient views and experiences have helped to improve the commissioning on Sussex NEPTS

Healthwatch raised patients’ suggested improvements for the NEPTS service with Sussex NHS Commissioners. The Service Specification reflects the views of patients (collated in 2020) in the following areas:

  • How eligibility criteria will be applied consistently
  • Greater emphasis on sharing better information on alternatives to NEPT
  • A focus on providing transport for renal patients
  • Improved use of technology to enable patients and carers to track their vehicles
  • Regular patient engagement to deliver ongoing improvements.

The Service Specification included the following references to the work of Healthwatch:

“The transport provider, working in partnership with the commissioner and working closely with patient representative groups such as Healthwatch, must establish a proactive communications plan (to be approved by the commissioner prior to the commencement of the service).  “

“Regular communication and engagement with Healthwatch to ensure any feedback about the service to them is heard and acted upon. The transport provider must establish and support patient groups across Sussex to assist in the on-going cycle of service monitoring and improvement, so that it will always have patients working with it to plan for a better service” 

“The transport provider may also be required to attend other meetings arranged by the commissioner, or with other organisations and key stakeholders at the commissioners’ request, e.g., Health Overview and Scrutiny Committees, local NHS Trusts, and Healthwatch. “ 

Tell us your experiences

You can leave a review of health and care services in East Sussex each and every time you use them via our Feedback Centre. This only takes a few minutes and helps commissioners, providers and Healthwatch understand how services are performing.

The Healthwatch East Sussex Information and Signposting (I&S) Service helps people to access the right health or social care service or organisation for their needs. In addition, the I&S service also enables people to share their experience or make a complaint about services they have used.

To contact our Information and Signposting Service please call: 0333 101 4004 or


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