Fears for the safety of elderly and frail people have been voiced after Stagecoach warned that rush hour bus services will no longer stop right outside Peterborough City Hospital.
It means a total of 47 Citi 2, 3 and 4 buses will not stop by the hospital front doors between 7.30am and 9am and 4.30pm and 6pm from Monday (May 4).
Instead, the buses will stop at the hospital entrance which is a few minutes’ walk away.
Transport operator Stagecoach has blamed the decision on delays to services caused by health staff entering and leaving the hospital car parks.
Campaigners say the hospital was only moved from Thorpe Road to Bretton in 2010 on the back of promises of good public transport links.
Rita Young, chair of the Peterborough Pensioners Society, said: “The proposals from Stagecoach which limit easy access to the front of the hospital is a further cut to the service.
“Dropping off at car parks furthest away from the doors becomes not only a hazard, but it presents difficulties to the sick, disabled and people with limited walking ability.”
Local campaigner and National Pensioners Convention member Mary Cook said: “It’s a very busy road and a dangerous environment with so many cars. Public transport is insufficient. Not everyone can afford taxis.
“They moved the hospital out of the city centre with the idea there would be sufficient transport but this is not going to do it.
“What are people going to do when their appointments are early?”
Angela Burrows, chief operating officer at patient group Healthwatch Peterborough, did not feel the changes would be a huge problem. She added: “I walked the walk and there’s a footpath the entire way.
“It would add at least five minutes to a normal walking pace but for someone poorly it would add 15 minutes.
“We’ve had one patient in touch and the feedback was that it would be a bit of a nightmare with a wheelchair.
“We will monitor the situation and if there is an unnecessary impact on patients we will ask Stagecoach to review the service.”
Healthwatch are hoping for people to get in touch on 03451 20 20 64, via email on: www.healthwatchpeterborough.co.uk or through social media.
Daily hospital visitor Sheila Hibbert (80) said: “This will be inconvenient and could feel like a mile depending on people’s ages and mobility.”
Chris Smither (36) from Orton Malborne, said: “It’s not a good idea. If you’re visiting the hospital you can’t walk that far.”
Kim Sanders (32) from Bretton, said: “It will be better if the buses do not come. They get stuck in work traffic.”
Ian Crich, director of workforce and organisational development for Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are disappointed that Stagecoach has taken this decision and are concerned about the impact that this could potentially have on our patients and visitors.
“Whilst the distance from the drop-off point at the entrance of the site to the main entrance of the hospital may not be excessive, it will have a disproportionate effect on the elderly, those less mobile and those with disabilities.
“There are undoubtedly occasions when access to the site in peak times can become difficult due to staff, patients and visitors all arriving and leaving at similar times.
“Certainly it is an extremely rare occurrence for this to happen as early as 7.30am in the morning which is the time the bus company has indicated it will no longer enter the site.
“We were informed of the changes by the city council two weeks’ ago and understand that this will affect 47 buses per day.
“Going forward we are keen to ensure that we have discussions with Stagecoach and the city council to try and reach a compromise and ensure that a much needed service will continue to be provided at peak times for our
patients and visitors.
“We do not expect this will necessarily deter people from attending the hospital who need care, but it will certainly not improve the experience of those doing so.”
A Trust spokeswoman added: “The location of the city hospital site makes it easy to access via all forms of transport.
“The site is a key point on three major bus routes and we are satisfied that the number of buses that visit the site per day meets the needs of public transport users at present.
“It is easy for motorists to access due to its close proximity to the A47 junction at Bretton Gate.
“In addition, our staff, patients and visitors can use the good cycle and pedestrian routes which link to the site and which avoids the need for people travelling by bicycle and on foot to negotiate any major roads.”
Andy Campbell, Stagecoah East managing director, said: “Regrettably we have no choice but to only serve the bus stop at the entrance to the hospital grounds at peak times.
“The excessive delays caused by staff entering and exiting car parks can often lead to delays of 20 minutes.
“However, we will serve the hospital entrance during the day between peak hours when the majority of appointments are taking place.”
Asked why the change to the service was happening now, Mr Campbell added: “Initially we tried to work with the hospital to find an alternative.
“As staff parking has increased, so have the delays going around the hospital complex.
“The entire service was being affected so we have been forced to make the changes to ensure greater reliability for our customers.”