A PARTIALLY blind Castle Bromwich woman who can barely walk is no longer eligible for a free NHS service to take her to hospital appointments because she is a ‘walking patient.’
Pamela Midgley has up to three check-ups a month at different hospitals as she battles a degenerative eye disease, chronic arthritis, asthma and ulcers.
The legal bookkeeper, who was forced to give up work when she started losing her sight five years ago, has also been diagnosed with clinical depression.
Over the last two years the 61-year-old has been collected from her warden-assisted flat by a non-emergency ambulance which has taken her to Heartlands Hospital, Solihull Hospital and Birmingham Dental Hospital for her appointments before taking her back home.
But following a change in the criteria for patients to qualify for the service, Pamela, who lives on her own and has no family nearby, was told she is no longer eligible.
In future, Pamela will now have to catch at least two buses to reach each hospital.
She said: “I’ve been using the service for the past two years, and now suddenly I’m not ill enough.
“I’m partially sighted with an incurable eye disease. I have poor sight and no peripheral vision.
“I recently broke both my feet after mis-stepping off a kerb.
“I used to get a non-emergency ambulance to the hospital appointments but now, suddenly, everything’s changed.
“Apparently I’m too healthy, even though my eyes are getting worse.
“I can venture to the shop on my own but I don’t go any further and it takes me a long time to walk even a short distance.
“Stepping on and off the bus could end up in a broken bone or stitches. I just don’t know what to do.”
Pamela said she has come to rely on the NHS service to take her to hospital and when she found out she was no longer qualified for the service, while calling to arrange some transport for an appointment, she was furious at first but then burst into tears.
She enlisted the help of Meriden MP Dame Caroline Spelman to find out why she was suddenly not eligible for the service.
In a letter from West Midlands Ambulance Service to Dame Spelman it said the criteria for non-emergency transport had changed in May 2017 and Pamela no longer fitted the criteria.
The letter read: “She had failed the eligibility criteria on July 25 due to her mobility. Miss Midgley’s mobility is classed as a C1, which means she is a walking patient.”
Paul Jennings, interim chief executive for NHS Birmingham and Solihull Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “We are very sorry to hear of any concern caused to Ms Midgley and we would be keen to talk to her directly about this.
“The Clinical Commissioning Groups undertook a consultation in 2015, to listen to local people’s view about non-emergency patient transport.
“As a result of the consultation, a new eligibility policy and patient charter were introduced.
“Eligibility for transport is based on a patient’s medical need and risks to their health.
“It also helps to identify their mobility class, determine the type of vehicle that is required, and level of support required from transport staff.
“There is an appeals process in place if a patient does not agree with the assessment of their eligibility.”