Healthwatch publishes people’s experiences of Patient Transport Services in Sussex

January 7, 2021


Healthwatch in Sussex has published a series of reports which indicate high levels of satisfaction amongst people who have used Non-Emergency Transport Services, but which sets out how they could and should be improved.

Key findings: what you told us about the current service

  • In 2020, 78.5% of people said that they were ‘very satisfied’ or ‘satisfied’ with the service. This is lower than levels recorded by Healthwatch in 2017 when 85% were satisfied.
  • 86% of people who had used the service in 2020 would recommend family and friends to apply for it. This is higher than levels in 2017 (80%).
  • 84% of people who had used the service during the first lockdown were ‘very satisfied’ or ‘satisfied’ with it, and 88% were ‘very likely’ or likely’ to recommend others to apply for the service.
  • satisfaction levels and recommendation ratings varied across Sussex. Patients from West Sussex were the most satisfied (95%) whilst those from Brighton and Hove were the least satisfied (56.5%, which is 27.5% lower than in 2017). Patients from East Sussex recorded a 12% drop in satisfaction levels (compared to 2017).
  • Over 80% of passengers told us that they had ‘never’, or ‘rarely’ experienced any problems with the following aspects of their journeys: having to make their own way to hospital due to transport delays, same day cancellations of their journeys, missing appointments due to delays or changes with their transport, having to make their own way home due to transport delays, or longer journey times to hospital than expected.
  • 59% said they had experienced delays, changes, or problems (‘issues’) with their transport and/or journeys made using the service. Residents from Brighton and Hove experienced a greater number of issues compared to residents from East Sussex or West Sussex.
  • 68% of all passengers reported experiencing delays in being picked up from hospital.
  • Over one third of all passengers experienced changes to their scheduled vehicle, delayed pick ups from home, or longer journey times travelling home than expected.
  • 55 passengers said that there had been multiple impacts for them caused by problems with either their transport or journeys made using the service. 46 (84%) had experienced anxiety or stress.

Improvements and changes you said you would like to see

You said a Patient Transport Service should:

  • Notify you of any changes or delays to your journeys (95%)
  • Give you an exact time for when your vehicle will be arriving (91%)
  • Make it easy for you to speak with someone at any time to check where your vehicle is (85%)
  • Create a dedicated service specifically for renal patients (83%)

You want the future service to provide you with:

  • A text or call telling you when your vehicle is 30 minutes away (79%)
  • A telephone call centre service with extended operating hours (open longer than 9am–5pm) (75%)
  • An online account facility which allows you (or a person you nominate) to mend/cancel your bookings (63%)
  • A mobile phone app which allows you to track the whereabouts of your vehicle (61.5%)

Healthwatch recommendations

We have shared our reports and recommendations with Sussex NHS Commissioners who are responsible for the service.

NHS Sussex Commissioners said:

It is pleasing that the Healthwatch survey shows that a large proportion of patients are satisfied with most aspects of the service, currently provided by South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS). The results reflect well on the work of SCAS to deliver improvements since they took over the contract in 2017.

However, we recognise that there are always areas where further improvements can be made. These have been clearly flagged in the report. We have taken this feedback and are working with SCAS to improve the offer patients receive now.

The Sussex CCG will continue working with Healthwatch, and using their recommendations, to ensure that patient engagement is maintained whilst we move into new service provision.”

Based on what you told us about the service in 2020:

  1. Improve the scheduling of transport by:
  2. Undertaking a full review of how transport is currently scheduled.
  3. Identifying and delivering comprehensive training to support transport coordinators when scheduling transport.
  4. Employing a full-time transport expert to assist in the effective planning and coordinating of journeys so that these meet patients’ needs and preferences.
  5. Improve patient communications by:
  6. Investing in delivering a range of improved communications, making full use of traditional methods (such as improved patient guides), and technological innovations such as online accounts and mobile phone tracking apps.
  7. Establish fully accessible patient forums, host these every 3-4 months, and publish outcomes, minutes, and learning from these.
  8. Adapt the service so it that meets the varying needs of different patient groups. Our public engagement has identified what aspects of a transport service are most important to different patient groups. This information should be used by the provider to deliver a transport service which is adapted to meet their needs and preferences.
  9. Incorporate positive learning from COVID-19. The service underwent several changes in response to the coronavirus pandemic which improved overall timeliness. The provider should identify how it can continue to deliver some of these improved aspects of the service as we come out of the pandemic.
  10. Deliver a more consistent service across the whole of Sussexso that all patients have a positive experience. The provider should, as a matter of urgency, identify actions to understand and address variations in satisfaction, and correct any problems.

Based on our separate literature review of Non-emergency Patient Transport Services:

  1. The new contract should deliver a person-centred transport service i.e., the patient should be at the heart of the new service as it is being re-designed.
  2. The new contract should incorporate changes which improve the experience of renal patients.
  3. NHS Commissioners must learn from past mistakes when developing the new contract.
  4. Contractual performance targets should be strengthened.
  5. The tendering process for the new contract must be robust and undergo exacting scrutiny.
  6. Any transition between current and future providers must be seamless.


You can access a series of reports below.

Throughout September 2020 we engaged with patients and passengers who use the current service, or had applied for it. We have produced two reports which detail our findings:

  • a summary report, and accompanying 2-page inforgraphic
  • a detailed report, with two appendices

Separately, we have undertaken a review of national and local reports and publications on patient transport to identify best practice and key learning. Using this wealth of information we have written a detailed literature review, and accompanying annex.

Infographic – a summary of our findings

Summary Report

Patient Survey – Full report

Patient Survey – Full report, Appendix One

Patient Survey – Full report, Appendix Two

Literature Review, September 2020

Literature Review, Annexes

Contact for interviews and comment:

David Liley, Chief Officer, Healthwatch Brighton and Hove    07931 755 343

Local Healthwatch Working Together

Healthwatch teams from Brighton and Hove, East Sussex and West Sussex have worked in collaboration to deliver this joint project on Non-emergency Patient Transport Services which serves the population of Sussex.

Healthwatch East Sussex
Simon Kiley, Evidence and Insight Manager
07794 100 335 / 0333 101 4007

Healthwatch West Sussex
Katrina Broadhill, Locality Manager
07967 327 257 / 0300 012 0122


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