A CHIPPENHAM woman, who had just been diagnosed with terminal cancer and told she had only months to live, had to wait four hours for a private ambulance to take her home.

Myra Hayes, 42, of Dickson Way, Chippenham, said she felt “trapped” while she waited alone for the Arriva Transport Solutions service at the Bristol Royal Infirmary last Thursday, forcing the company to apologise.

“She has a tumour in her back which makes it impossible to be taken home by private car as she’s in too much pain,” her sister Tracey Garside said. “When we phoned Arriva, they said they had a booking to pick her up on Friday. She came back in tears - all she wanted to do was be home. We need some answers, the situation is beyond a joke. They are treating patients like a commodity.”

ATS, which provides transport to Mrs Hayes three times a week, has been accused of failure by Wiltshire’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which sets targets for carrying non-emergency patients, some of which have not been met.

Lucy Baker of Wiltshire’s Clinical Commissioning Group said: “Patients are waiting longer than we would wish for either transport to pick them up or to collect them from their hospital appointments. What we don’t want to do is add to their concerns or worries.

“We’ve provided additional funding to help improve the service.”

Ed Potter, managing director of ATS, said: “In a very constructive discussion earlier this week, Myra Hayes gave me an insight into her recent experiences of our service.

“Whilst she spoke positively about many aspects of our transport, in particular the care that our ambulance staff provide, she also shared some feedback about parts of our organisation where there is a clear and pressing need for improvement.

“Our great people care deeply about the service we provide for patients. We successfully carry out thousands of journeys every week across south west England that take place on time and to a high standard.

“However, we do understand the impact that transport can have on patients when these standards are not met. We take our obligations seriously and we are always willing to be held to account by the public that we serve.

“While we always face up to our own responsibilities, there are commissioning challenges that equally must be addressed. Some of these external challenges, which are completely outside a patient transport provider’s control, directly contributed to some of the poor experiences that Myra Hayes told me about.”

“We believe there has to be a transformation in the way patient transport is designed and commissioned in order to meet the increasing demands being placed upon it, and in order to encourage innovation.

“Transport plays a pivotal role in patients’ overall experience of healthcare yet there is currently no accountability in central government for this vital service. We are clear that provider accountability and a reformed commissioning approach both have to happen to bring about a real change.”