NHS England announces free travel for kidney diaylisis patients

New transport travel guidance released by NHS England aims to provide patients with kidney dialysis with free travel to get treatment and diagnostic support for their condition. The new guidance has been released today, subject to parliament approval, and will mean Integrated Care Systems will be responsible for commissioning and overseeing the quality of patient transport, from April 2022.

Under the plans, 21,000 patients are set to benefit from the new service, a patient or their family will be eligible to apply for refundable travel, to hospitals, and NHS estates, such as diagnostic centres.

Professor Stephen Powis, the NHS’s national medical director, said: “The NHS is easing the health and financial costs of long-term conditions, digital, video and phone consultations all have their part to play, but each year patients still need millions of convenient face-to-face appointments with hospitals and GPs. That’s why these new arrangements – developed in partnership with patients’ groups – will make it easier to get convenient NHS care while easing the financial burden of long-term health conditions and helping reduce the health service’s carbon footprint.”

The NHS worked with Age UK, Healthwatch England, Kidney Care UK, to develop the guidelines and was supported by the groups’ representatives.

Fiona Loud, Policy Director of Kidney Care UK, said: “As a member of the NEPTS Review Expert Advisory Group, we are delighted to welcome the universal transport support commitment for all of the 21,000 kidney patients on dialysis, who receive their treatment in hospitals or satellite units. For far too long we have heard about the variable and often difficult experiences many individuals have when travelling for their life-sustaining treatment, with transport regularly at the bottom of Kidney Care UK’s annual survey of patient experience.

“These new proposals show a real determination to improve patient care. National data, including waiting times, will be monitored and published, providing a real opportunity to improve the day to day experience for people who have to make over 300 journeys a year to get to and from their life-maintaining treatments.”

The new guidance will also establish a commitment to reduce carbon emissions on patient journeys, NHS England will aim to have “100% zero emissions journeys by 2035, except for ambulance journeys and volunteers driving their own cars.”

Significant change will also apply to the Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme, which will make it easier for those on lower incomes to claim back on journey costs.