Patients who are eligible for free transport to hospital appointments are missing out because of “flaws” in a call centre assessment scheme, councillors warned yesterday.

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NHS Norfolk launched a new assessment and advice line in September 2011 to determine who can use non-emergency transport on the NHS. However, members of Norfolk County Council’s health overview and scrutiny committee raised concern that the assessment and transport service, which is run by the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust, is turning down patients who are in need of help.

North Norfolk District Councillor Annie Claussen-Reynolds said she had been told of a case where a registered blind person with a guide dog was told that they should get public transport to an appointment at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge after phoning the Patient Transport Clinical Assessment and Advice Service (PTCAAS) at Hellesdon.

Michael Carttiss, chairman of the scrutiny committee, said: “They appear to suggest there are flaws in the assessment process, particularly if a blind person is told to get on the bus to go to Addenbrooke’s.”

Helen Izatt, from NHS Norfolk and Waveney, said the primary care trust and NHS Suffolk joined forces in 2011 to put a system in place an assessment to make sure access to non-emergency transport was “fair”. She added that some patients who had previously received transport had been told they no longer qualify under the new system and there was an appeals process with around half being upheld and the other half being overturned.

Gail Thurston, from the ambulance service, added that volunteer drivers were an integral part with 50pc of the service being made up of volunteers. She added that the assessment process was constantly being reviewed. Mr Carttiss called on the trusts to provide more information on how many people use the service and how many have appealed, but said the health officials had helped reassure residents.

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