CAMPAIGNERS have slammed the decision to cut a bus service that links patients in the Devizes area to the Royal United Hospital in Bath in order to save money.

The Connect2 Wiltshire service will stop in November, saving Wiltshire Council £130,000 a year.

But campaigners say the service is well used, particularly by the elderly, who will not be able to afford alternative transport.

Kate Freeman, of the Devizes Community Area Partnership, said: “Cutting this service will mean that the vulnerable are carrying the cost of austerity.

“It will also burden the voluntary sector, with services such as patient transport and the Link scheme becoming overstretched.

“I know many people across the area that have used the service and it will be greatly missed.”

Brian Deeley, chief executive at Age UK Wiltshire, said: “I know savings have to be made but Wiltshire has a large aging population who rely on these services.

“Without them transport choices will be extremely limited for older patients and their families.

“Wiltshire Council has said that older people are a priority but how does this decision fit in with that?”

Previously known as the Wiltshire Hopper, the service runs five days a week and covers most of north and west Wiltshire. There is a bookable stop in Devizes Market Place and it can also call at Bromham, Seend, Erlestoke and Great Cheverell on request.

Joyce Oakley, 84, of Newtown, in Bradford on Avon, goes to the RUH every couple of months for treatment for her deafness.

She said: “I’ve been using the service for two or three years and I’m really sorry that the council is going to cut funding for it.

“When I wasn’t well once, the RUH told the bus staff, who made sure I was feeling okay on the way home. The drivers are so kind.”

Driver Dave Barker, who joined A&G Minibuses, which runs the service, six years ago, said: “It’s a little shortsighted cutting all the services.

“There was no public consultation and they are the people who use it.

“It’s grown a lot since I joined and we’ve seen an increase of about 30 per cent in passenger numbers. We have an aging population and a lot of people with different health issues which require easier transportation to hospital.”

In a statement Wiltshire Council said: “Given the pressure on local government funding, we have to make tough choices, and will be doing so in this year’s budget.

“We are looking at usage of all subsidised bus services and whether they are cost efficient and sustainable. We are considering stopping funding for the RUH Hopper and will be meeting with the acute hospitals and CCG to discuss this.

“The successful Link schemes are available for many people, and the RUH also manages its own patient transport system.”