On 29 June, the Winchester and Eastleigh Healthcare NHS Trust confirmed that they will not be extending the contract for the Andover Hospital Shuttle Bus service beyond 31 August 2010. The Trust has said that this was a difficult decision, but that it has been reached owing to the increasing financial constraints the current economic situation will place on public sector bodies. The passenger numbers whilst consistent, they say, are relatively low – an average of 2.97 passengers per journey.
The Trust has stated that ‘the improved Outpatients Department at Andover Hospital provides a different opportunity for local services, yet to be fully exploited, but this may, itself, reduce the need for patients to travel to Winchester.’ Test Valley council officers who are working to ensure all users have as much notice as possible so they can make alternative arrangements.
While I appreciate the Trust’s need to get value for money it is unacceptable to pull this service without first making sure all the patients using it have access to alternative means of getting to Winchester. I also wonder why the trust hasn’t looked at its running costs before closing the service. If they only have 3 passengers per journey surely a minibus or taxi would be cheaper than a bus.
I will be following this up with council officers and other interested organisations.