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Patients launch campaign to restore bus service between King's Mill Hospital and Newark Hospital

The plight of patients and visitors who need to travel from Newark or Southwell and surrounding villages to King's Mill Hospital in Sutton-in-Ashfield is driving a new campaign to restore a bus service between the two hospitals.

A free bus service between the hospitals ran daily until January 2017 at a cost thought to be around £40,000 a year. It was paid for by the Newark and Sherwood Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and was axed as part of plans to save £7.3m.

But after reading comments in last week's Advertiser by Newark town councillor and bus campaigner Mr Laurence Goff, members of the town's Stroke and Aphasia Group stepped forward to add their support to formalising a campaign to bring back the hospital bus.

Stagecoach holds a consultation at Southwell Library over changes to bus timetables.
Stagecoach holds a consultation at Southwell Library over changes to bus timetables.

The group's fund-raiser Mrs Jackie Cox, 75, of Parkway, Newark, said: "A direct bus to King's Mill is very much needed by both the young and the old. We have around 54 members and most of them have had strokes or have suffered a brain injury and need to go to King's Mill for treatment or for follow-up appointments."

She said that the five-hour round trip using current service buses was impractical: "If you don't live right in the centre of Newark you have to get a bus in, then take another bus to Mansfield and another to King's Mill. The service only runs Monday to Saturday and the last bus back is about 5pm, so when you do get back to Newark bus services have probably stopped for the night anyway.

"If you go by taxi it can cost up to £40 each way. It's a lot of money... People would be willing to pay to use a bus to King's Mill." Mrs Cox said transport difficulties meant that in-patients at King's Mill from the Newark area often had fewer visitors. "Restoring this service is really important to people. It's bad enough being in hospital but imagine what it's like when nobody visits you."

Mrs Cox's own husband, Rodney, died in January 2017 as he was about to be taken by ambulance back to Newark. Mrs Cox used the daily bus extensively just before it was withdrawn.

Stroke group chairman Mrs Dee Morley, 55, had a stroke herself eight years ago and although she can still drive for local trips she doesn't feel confident to drive to King's Mill: "Many of our members can't drive now so they find getting to appointments extremely difficult.... A lot of organisations would be happy to raise funds to get the bus service back on track. It's so disappointing that the service was stopped."

Mrs Morley acknowledged that the hospitals also offer a car ambulance service: "You can ask for a car ambulance and they will try to provide one, but the service is run by volunteers so it's very much a case of how many volunteers they have. If six people from Newark all have appointments around the same time, they wouldn't be able to get them all there. It's a big issue for my members."

Mr Goff said that there were scores of parish councils as well as the district and county councils who should be willing to help fund the service.

County, district and town councillor Mr Keith Girling commented: "I don't think it's a bad idea but I think some organisations would struggle to subsidise this. But if it is restored it's got to be done properly and it's got to be used... The problem is that people say they want the service but they didn't use it. You can't keep a bus service going when there's one person on it."

A spokesman for the CCG said they would welcome talks with the bus protesters: "We would like to invite the group to contact the CCG for advice and guidance about their proposals... Free transport is also available to eligible patients via the local non-emergency patient transport service, provided by Arriva Transport Solutions. Patients can apply for the service by contacting Arriva on 0345 266 9662. The service is for patient with a medical need and is subject to eligibility criteria."

  • If you are interested in joining the hospital bus campaign, contact Dee Morley on 07815 026478 or email dorothy_nichol@hotmail.com

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