A HOSPITAL bus service set up to transport patients, visitors and staff between Burnley General and Royal Blackburn Hospitals is to be scaled back from Monday.
At some times of day the free shuttle bus will run just once an hour from each hospital site leaving users of the service and campaigners outraged.
One passenger, who did not wish to be named, said at peak times hospital employees and visitors were left behind as buses were too full.
“This reduction has occurred with no consultation with staff and management,” they said. “My concern is that this bus service was part of the Meeting Patients’ Needs programme and one of the agreements to merging the two hospitals.”
The shuttle bus was introduced in May 2007, six months before blue light emergency services moved from Burnley General to Blackburn under the Meeting Patients’ Needs programme. In September 2009 journeys were reduced from every 20 minutes to every half-hour to save £115,000.
Under the latest reviewed timetable buses will run between every 20 minutes and every hour depending on the time of day with fewer journeys from mid-morning to mid-afternoon.
But health bosses said the service was not being used to its full potential off-peak.
Sue Chapman, head of facilities at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “A review into the use of the shuttle bus service was carried out earlier this year, and showed a number of journeys carried out in mid-morning and mid-afternoon were transporting only a very small number of passengers.
“The Trust, following consultation with union representatives and patient groups, has taken the decision to reduce the number of off-peak journeys, but the number of journeys at peak times will remain the same.
“We provide the shuttle bus, at a cost of almost £500,000 a year, to help patients, staff and visitors travel free between our sites. We feel it is important to ensure this service is as efficient and responsive as possible, to avoid unnecessary spending of money which could go towards improvements in patient care.”
Burnley MP Gordon Birtwistle said: “I don’t think the Trust should change the service at all. The Trust, against the wishes of the people of Burnley, moved our services to Blackburn. It’s the Trust’s responsibility to provide a bus service. I’m not bothered whether there’s one person on the bus or it’s full. I don’t think it’s adequate anyway.”