PROBLEMS with the new patient transport service in Wiltshire are being ironed out, according to a report from the Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group.

A new contract for the service began last December and the contractor, Arriva Transport Solutions, immediately ran into difficulties.

The report says some patients faced long waiting times before being transported home from hospital, and others had to be re-admitted because no transport was available.

The new contract covers non-emergency patient transport for Wiltshire, Swindon, Bath and North East Somerset and Gloucestershire, replacing previous arrangements using several different firms.

Salisbury District Hospital had its own in-house patient transport service except for patients undergoing dialysis who were provided with transport through Portsmouth Hospitals.

The report says the teething troubles arose for many reasons including an “extremely high volume of calls”, insufficient information from the previous providers, “early winter pressures” and the need for hospital trusts to reorganise their “internal processes”.

It adds: “The combination of these issues meant that there was considerable concern at the outset of the contract.”

It says Arriva has since increased its ability to take telephone calls by 60 per cent; calls have gone down from 5,500 per week to 3,500 and they are being handled more swiftly.

The increased use of online booking has also helped, along with various other steps such as boosting carrying capacity by 15 per cent.

The new booking system should also mean patients needing to be taken home do not miss their bus or car.

The report says performance has been best at Salisbury out of the four acute hospitals in the contract area.

It concludes: “Although performance has improved, there is more to be done.”

The patient transport service is for people who require it on medical rather than cost grounds.