NHS staff have teamed up with the Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen and local bus company Tees Flex. Helping vulnerable patients get to and from hospital during the coronavirus pandemic.
North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust is working with the Tees Valley Mayor and Combined Authority and Stagecoach North East to use buses that are normally part of Tees Flex. The on-demand bus service was introduced by the Mayor last year for patient transport.
Passengers normally request a Tees Flex bus through a smart phone app, website or telephone. Since the outbreak of the pandemic the buses have been operating in partnership with the NHS Trust free of charge to help patients in need.
Laura Elwell and Julie Smith from the physiotherapy service have been running the new service six days a week, with the Trust’s transport scheduler, Shaun Davies, and Stagecoach North East bus driver, Atif Hussain, over the past several weeks.
Laura said: “This service has been invaluable in helping patients benefit from the transport they need at this difficult time.
“We are helping patients get to and from hospital as quickly and efficiently as they can. While easing any pressure on other services at this time.
“We have also been able to provide that extra care that some patients need. Such as making sure vulnerable patients have got into their home safely and have the food and support they need there.
“We have been overwhelmed by the reaction of the public. We’ve been applauded and cheered while on our travels.”
Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “In these unprecedented times there is nothing more important than the health and wellbeing of local people. All across Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool. I’m delighted that Tees Flex buses are playing a key role in patient transport and supporting our NHS.
“When the coronavirus pandemic struck, and the government introduced restrictions to flatten the curve. It was clear the best use of the Tees Flex buses would be to support the local response.
“This service is giving vulnerable people peace of mind. I can’t thank our dedicated drivers enough for going above and beyond to provide a great experience.”
Stagecoach driver, Atif, added: “When the pandemic first started. I was told about this new partnership with the NHS and was very keen to be part of it.
“It’s fantastic for myself and Stagecoach to be able to play a small part in helping patients at this challenging time.”
Jill Foreman, senior clinical professional, said: “We have been delighted to be working with Stagecoach, the Mayor and Combined Authority on such a fantastic initiative.
“We are helping patients come in and out of hospital as safely and quickly as possible. At a time when people may be anxious or concerned.
“We know from feedback how popular and successful the service has been and that is thanks to everyone involved.”