HOSPITAL chiefs are considering spending £30,000 on a car to transport patients to a care centre “200 yards” from the hospital.

They claim it is the best solution – after saying patients have been forced to wait for company Arriva to bring ambulances from “all over Wiltshire” to take them the short distance between Great Western Hospital and the Swindon Intermediate Care Centre (SWICC).

Arriva, which is contracted to provide the patient transport service, is understood to have offered a pilot scheme involving keeping a vehicle on-site for a “couple of weeks”.

But, at a meeting of the Great Western Hospital NHS Foundation Trust’s board of directors, chief executive Nerissa Vaughan, blasted the proposal.

“We cannot be reliant on Arriva,” she said. “It’s not delivering on its current contract. What confidence have I got that it can deliver?”

She said that the hospital “cannot rely on that for this winter”, adding: “We know that it’s not going to work, so let’s not pretend. It’s been a problem for years.”

Kevin McNamara, the trust’s director of strategy, said that plans for a trust-owned vehicle were “scoped, costed and ready to go”.

The annual cost of the vehicle would be around £30,000, the hospital confirmed. £10,000 of this would be used to buy the vehicle and the remainder for staff and other costs.

Mr McNamara said that it was hoped that a new vehicle would make it easier to transport patients between the main hospital and the SWICC, where patients requiring rehabilitation care are often looked after.

He said: “One of the issues historically has been that we’ve had to get transport through Arriva to transfer a patient from Great Western into SWICC, which is 200 yards over the road — which is a bit ridiculous.

“That generates lots of delays.”

The trust was ready to buy the new vehicle, when it received news last week from the Clinical Commissioning Group “that Arriva are going to pilot for a couple of weeks, a few hours a day, a vehicle that’s on site here”.

Chief executive Nerissa Vaughan told the board of directors meeting the trust should disregard the pilot scheme: “I don’t think we should be doing that. I think we should get our own solution.”

Later, she added: “This is a crazy problem, where you’re just moving patients across the road and having to bring ambulances from all over Wiltshire.

“This is a simple one to solve, but I’m not convinced we’ll get that with the ambulance contract as it stands at the moment.

“It’s not delivering on its core so why would I expect a gesture of goodwill to work?”

When timed on Friday, the walk between GWH’s front door and SWICC took two minutes and 55 seconds.

Mark Feather, national head of operations, Arriva Transport Solutions: “The service we are commissioned to provide does not place specific expectations on transporting patients from the main hospital to Swindon Intermediate Care Centre (SWICC). This work is managed alongside the other journeys we carry out throughout the county.

“We work in close partnership with commissioners and Great Western Hospital to bring ongoing improvement to our patient transport services. This includes highlighting ways in which we believe the commissioned structure and delivery of patient transport must be modernised in order to meet the increasing demands placed upon it.

“An initiative to address this specific operational issue at Great Western Hospital is in the process of being introduced. This has been developed in consultation with front line hospital staff and has been received enthusiastically.”