PATIENTS have been left stranded in hospital after waiting hours for transport to return them home.

Susan Wright, 80, of Toothill, was among half a dozen people left waiting at Great Western Hospital last Friday, as Arriva Transport Solutions struggled to meet its targets.

Arriva took over running of non-emergency patient transport in the South West at the start of December and has said that its service is improving.

Taxis were arranged with a firm from Devizes to bring Susan home, but she was late for her appointment and was left waiting to be picked up for almost three hours.

“They should not take the job on if they do not know what they are doing,” said Susan, who is partially sighted and diabetic.

“It seems they do not know what volume of people are using the hospital transport so they just can’t cope with it.”

Susan has used non-emergency transport for eight years but says problems only began when Arriva took over.

“You have to ring up to order your transport, and they told me to be ready by 9 o’clock,” she said. “I was waiting, but they did not arrive until 10.30am, which meant I was late for my appointment by 15 minutes.

“I got down to the departure lounge at midday, and there were people waiting. I made enquiries and they said they did not know what was happening.

“It took an awfully long time to sort out. One manager took down all our details and how long we had been waiting but we never heard from her again.

“When it was the other transport I was never kept waiting.

“I have to go there three or four times a year and this was my first experience with Arriva.

“I won’t use them again. I would rather pay for a taxi than wait for hours.

“Finally someone came round and called my name and they had sent taxis from Devizes to take us home.

“The driver said he had been in Swindon anyway and he got a call to come to the hospital. He said he had been walking all over the hospital trying to find two other people to collect.

“It is absolute chaos now. When it used to be the volunteers it was perfect. I have been using them for the last eight years since my husband died.

“I can’t walk very far without getting out of breath, and the hospital suggested transport.

“I did not ask for it but now I have to fight for it. When it was the volunteers they used to get out of the car and see me right to the door, but these people just sit in the road and wait for you. My son had to help me down to the car in the morning.”

A spokesman for Arriva Transport Solutions said that on the day six patients were not picked up in the hour’s target.

He said: “Any delay is unacceptable. We have to outsource 10 per cent of our journeys, and that is in our contract, so sometimes that will include taxi companies.

“We would like to apologise for inconvenience caused, and while we have experienced problems, our service is improving.”

Ed Potter, Head of South West, Arriva Transport Solutions, said the firm had increased the number of ambulances by a quarter and service had improved to four fifths of all patients being collected within an hour.

He said: “We are sorry to hear that there are still some patients experiencing delays with their transport home from hospital.

“The first few weeks following the start of the contract saw a significant number of delays.

“Through analysis coupled with patient and stakeholder feedback we were able to identify the causes of the majority of delays and we have taken action to address each of these.

“We have experienced higher volumes of patient journeys than expected and we have increased the number of ambulances serving Swindon by 25 per cent.

“We have also placed managers at the hospital on a daily basis to assist with the transition period.

“One cause of the delays was the new process of booking patients ‘ready to travel’ and to address this we have provided additional training. This has had a positive impact for both staff and patients.

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