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What’s the idea?

We’re bringing together healthcare providers, transport operators and patients to design a truly user-centred approach to prototyping a new online service. The prototype will aim to match patients to the most appropriate transport service – whether that’s an ambulance, a seat on a minibus or a lift from a volunteer. The platform will look to collate the range of transport options available, which users can use to view driver suggestions based on proximity, training and experience, and can then use to book their preferred option and pay for it online.

The service will make existing transport more accessible and help patients find what they need more easily

The service will make existing transport more accessible and help patients find what they need more easily – particularly the elderly and frail and/or those with mobility issues; making use of collaborative technology to more effectively connect resources with the people who need them most.

Many important community transport initiatives already exist. We feel the next step in addressing transport poverty is to combine learning from these models with existing technology to improve patient transport: this offers a much more direct link to relieving pressure on existing public services.

We also think it’s relevant that our project has started from trying to solve a problem in public services (rather than being an existing product looking to expand into this area) meaning our focus will be completely on innovation that supports the NHS.

Background

One of the key challenges faced by the NHS is consistently meeting demand in a timely manner, providing high quality care when resource is limited. An aspect of this is providing patient transport for those who find it difficult to access services and attend appointments.

At Patient Transport Oxfordshire, we believe that more and better patient transport provision could help relieve pressure on existing public services in a number of ways:

  • Reducing the amount of time GPs spend visiting patients (in Oxford alone this amounts to around 26,000 visits a year),
  • Reducing delays in discharge (thus freeing up hospital beds),
  • Reducing the amount of money being spent by the NHS on private taxis.

Patients too will benefit by reducing the number of missed appointments, delays in admission and referrals for treatment due to a lack of available transport.

Unfortunately, improving patient transport is a difficult task. In Oxfordshire, multiple solutions exist – from volunteer driver schemes, to charity/publicly-run community transport initiatives and a non-emergency ambulance service. But, despite this, awareness among patients and health professionals is low. You often have to know the exact service name to find it online and many of the directories are out-of-date.

This is part of the problem our partnership is working to address. We’ve made a great start under our own steam and, now we have some funding, we’re confident we can turn this project from a good idea into a successful pilot service.

Why the ShareLab Fund?

The ShareLab Fund will allow us to create a working prototype to trial with our three user groups - patients (and their families/carers), healthcare providers and transport operators. We know that we need to understand how we can embed the use of this new service into a busy and complex system. We’ve also got to gather data from a set of disparate transport providers and find a way to standardise how we display it. We hope to have the prototype built and in test by the end of the year, followed shortly after by the launch of the beta platform.

By the end of the ShareLab grant, the Patient Transport Oxfordshire project will have moved from a good idea to a functioning prototype and then the early stages of a pilot. ShareLab funding will allow us to spend time really getting to know our user groups and their true needs rather than rushing to build something that may not be fit for purpose.

Patient Transport Oxfordshire will receive £30,000 from the ShareLab Fund.