Transport to and from dialysis

Kidney Care UK campaigns for people across the UK to have access to safe and reliable transport and for people who make their own way to and from dialysis to have their costs reimbursed.

People on dialysis in a hospital or unit make around 312 journeys a year in order to receive this life-sustaining treatment. It plays a major role in people’s overall experience of care.

There are longstanding problems with transport to and from dialysis and every year it is one of the lowest scoring themes on the Patient Reported Experience Measure (PREM) survey. Long waiting times and unreliability of non-emergency patient transport (NETPS) makes life more difficult for many people on dialysis. We also think it is unfair that people who make their own way to dialysis often have to cover the cost themselves.

Patient transport: what has happened so far?

Kidney Care UK and partners have published two key reports shining a light on people’s experience of traveling to and from dialysis: Finding a Way Together and There and Back.

This work led to a review by NHS England into non-emergency transport (NEPTS), including dialysis transport which accounts for 50% of all NEPTS journeys. Kidney Care UK, Age UK and Healthwatch England were advisors to the review.

Following this review, NHS England committed to improving the quality of patient transport. It also asked local hospitals to talk to each patient about the best method of transport to and from dialysis, whether this be NEPTS or making their own way by car or public transport. The guidance said people on in-centre haemodialysis should be able to access specialist transport, non-specialist transport or upfront/reimbursement costs for private travel. NHS England said “every patient who needs kidney dialysis will benefit from free transport to and from vital hospital appointments”.

Unfortunately, this guidance has not been implemented by many local health trusts. Kidney Care UK is continuing to work with NHS England on encouraging implementation, but believe it is unacceptable that people are still having to pay to travel to life-sustaining treatment.

Our recent report, presented at the Scottish Parliament, highlighted similar challenges in Scotland, where we have called for national guidelines.

In Wales, people can claim to have their dialysis travel costs reimbursed.

In Northern Ireland, reimbursement for travel to dialysis is means tested. You get financial help from the Hospital Travel Costs Scheme if you're on a low income.

Dialysis transport reimbursement: how can I claim?

Speak to your local transport co-ordinator or kidney unit to ask about their reimbursement policy.

Check whether you may be eligible for the separate Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme.

Check whether there are other concessionary travel schemes in your area which may be helpful, for example the Freedom Pass in London or the Disabled person’s bus pass. Read more about support with the cost of public transport if you are disabled.

Please keep us posted on your experiences of patient transport by emailing our Policy team ([email protected]).