Jun 15 2012 by Jennifer Buchanan, Ayrshire Post (main ed)
A VITAL bus service has had its timetable slashed.
The Ayr Hospital to Crosshouse Hospital bus route will now run every two hours instead of every hour due to funding cuts by NHS Ayrshire and Arran.
Many health services have been centralised to the two hospitals making them busier than ever. And patients could now potentially have a six hour round trip for appointments now that the changes have come into play.
Karen Gibbons lives near Ayr Hospital and was a patient at Stobhill Hospital in Glasgow for an operation earlier this year.
The 60-year-old was transferred for out-patient treatment to Crosshouse as it was nearer to her home. But thanks to the service changes, Karen now has to get the same number of buses as when she was at Glasgow.
She said: “I sometimes used to have to wait an hour for the number 24 bus but that was acceptable, this is just unbelievable.
“The hospital cafe is always packed and you can never get a seat. Where are we supposed to sit and wait? In the clinics themselves?
“It’s not just the patients who are effected, it’s visitors and people who used the service to travel.
“The bus was always busy I just don’t understand it.”
Ayr MSP John Scott has also spoken out at the service cut.
He said: “Reducing the frequency of the direct bus service to Ayr Hospital and Crosshouse Hospital from one service every hour to one service every two hours clearly has the potential to cause huge problems for people with hospital appointments, or simply visiting friends and relatives who are in hospital.
“It opens up the prospect of local people having to arrive two hours before a scheduled hospital appointment, or having to wait around the hospital for two hours after their appointment, which is clearly a completely unsatisfactory situation.
“That’s why I have written to NHS Ayrshire and Arran, calling on them to reinstate the funding that they previously made available and which allowed this service to operate on an hourly basis.”
The MSP added: “Leaving local hospital users facing such a drastic reduction in the level of bus service simply cannot be tolerable, and in fact rather than reducing that service, it should in my view be expanded in order to provide a direct hospital link not only from Ayr and Prestwick, but also from Troon, which is not covered by the existing service.”
Andrew Moore, assistant director of nursing, patient and community relations said: “NHS Ayrshire and Arran subsidised the route 24 Stagecoach bus service with £20,000 per year for the first two years providing pump prime funding to Stagecoach to establish a commercial route.
“This route is now run exclusively by Stagecoach, who are a private company over which we have no direct influence.
“I have, however, raised my concerns about the reduced timetable with Stagecoach and the Regional Bus Service Regulator, Strathclyde Partnership for Transport.
“All passengers over 60 years of age and registered disabled users receive free, local and long-distance bus travel. I would also encourage patients who are in receipt of benefits to claim back their expenses when travelling to a hospital appointment.”