• Charity hails decision to let dialysis patients have free transport to hospital
  • CCG adds exemption to new policy after months of discussions with campaigners
  • Decision “avoids new precedent” being set for kidney patients requiring transport to hospital

Kidney patients in Cornwall relying on dialysis treatment will continue to receive NHS funded transport to hospital after commissioners reversed a decision to make them pay.

Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group decided last September that patients who frequently travel to hospital should no longer have their transport paid for by the NHS, unless they were eligible for specific medical or financial reasons.

The decision prompted alarm from national charity Kidney Care UK, which warned many renal patients would not be eligible.

Patients who suffer kidney failure die if they are not given dialysis or a kidney transplant.

After discussions with patients, local clinicians, Kidney Care UK, and local MPs, the CCG has announced it will fund transport for patients requiring dialysis three times a week for a minimum of six weeks, or six times a month for a minimum of three months.

Fiona Loud, chief executive of Kidney Care UK, said this would cover 99 per cent of patients, and that the charity is “really pleased” with the CCG’s decision.

She said it was a good example of “patient power”, and praised the work of local clinicians and Newquay and St Austell MP Steve Double for their work to overturn the initial plans.

“The CCG did listen to our concerns,” she told HSJ. “It’s welcome news and I hope it will reassure patients.”

The charity has set up a national stakeholder group to produce guidance about transport for dialysis patients.

Dialysis is not included in the nationally defined medical eligibility for NHS funded transport, but Ms Loud said she was not aware of any other CCGs which do not fund transport for dialysis patients.

Last September, there were around 160 patients in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly accessing dialysis treatment.

Those patients continued to receive NHS-funded transport services while the CCG discussed the proposal with Kidney Care UK and other campaigners.

Ms Loud said the reversal meant a new precedent had not been set, as she originally feared when the initial plans were announced.

The changes were proposed by the CCG in a bid to provide an “equitable and fair service” to patients requiring non-emergency transport services, a spokeswoman told HSJ.

“Whenever we change a policy we always commit to seek feedback and listen to what people have said in the early days of any change. This is exactly what we have done on this occasion,” she said.

The CCG was forecasting ending the 2017-18 financial year with a £37.6m deficit, and said last summer it would not hit its £19m deficit control total.