Eastbourne hospital travel: MP tells parliament ‘the lines of responsibility are not clear’

The MP for Eastbourne has raised the topic of hospital travel and confusion around responsibility in parliament as part of her campaign with the Herald to improve transport connections for patients.

MP Caroline Ansell has spoken in parliament about the need for cost-effective and integrated bus services between the hospitals in East Sussex for patients needing treatment.

This comes after Mrs Ansell and the Herald released a survey which asked people about the need for a shuttle bus.

Eastbourne hospital travel campaign

Mrs Ansell is also preparing to meet with the health minister to discuss the campaign.

In parliament last Thursday (January 27) she said, “In recent years, clinical services have been reconfigured across my hospital trust, from Eastbourne and Bexhill to Hastings, but one in four households in Eastbourne do not have a car and public transport options are poor.

“There is no direct bus service; the journey can mean two buses and take two hours, and funding – financial support for some – is very narrowly defined.

“I have secured a meeting with the minister for health, who has responsibility for hospitals, but may we have a wider debate about access to hospitals?

“Although I am working with local stakeholders who are engaged in this to improve the situation, the lines of responsibility are not clear.”

Jacob Rees-Mogg, leader of the House of Commons, said, “I am grateful to my honourable friend for what she says about access to hospitals; the issue of ensuring good hospital services and good transport to them has arisen for many of us in our constituencies.”

He went on to explain the government is spending part of a £5 billion investment to improve bus services.

Mr Rees-Mogg said, “Local authorities have published bus improvement plans, which provide an assessment of existing services in their area, including details of current provision for rural and coastal communities.

“Action is being taken, but my honourable friend is right to raise the question about integrating services so that people can get to their hospital appointments.”

Speaking afterwards Mrs Ansell said, “I believe there is a collective understanding and a desire locally to address the issue of how to make public transport better between all three hospitals following a good few meetings on the subject.

“However, as I mentioned in parliament, I am concerned the desire to do this will fall through the cracks over who is actually responsible. This must be avoided and I will be looking to pin down all stakeholders in health, transport, the government and the local authorities to identify those lines of responsibility in the coming months.

“This is an issue at the heart of our community and I think the Herald is doing that community a great service by publicising it and being such a vocal supporter of improved transport links for those who most need it.

“Our hospital trust is proposing to make further changes which would increase the movement of patients across the county but there must be improved transport links to support the clinical case they make.”