The Leader of West Lothian Council is urging families in West Lothian to use a travel service which can provide free taxi transport for families returning home from A & E at the Royal Hospital for Sick Kids (RHSC) in Edinburgh.
Leader of West Lothian Council Lawrence Fitzpatrick said: "The last thing parents will think about as their child is rushed to A & E is how they are going to get home but unfortunately it is a real problem for many families who do not have access to private transport.
"Sometimes families are rushed through to A & E in an ambulance only to find themselves stranded at the RHSC once their child has received medical treatment or is kept in hospital. Parents then have to pay for taxis to take them home or face the prospect of taking children, who have just received hospital treatment particularly when buses have ceased to operate in the late evening or early morning.
"I wrote to the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, Shona Robison, seeking clarity on what services were in place, and I also raised these issues with her when I met with her last month. I am pleased to say that she has confirmed that free transport options do exist and that West Lothian families are entitled to receive free transport from the RHSC to West Lothian, if they have received treatment in A & E."
NHS Lothian has stated that they have in place a range of funded transport options for families accessing the RHSC from West Lothian. One of the options provides free taxi transport home for families that have been taken to A & E with children and have no other way of getting home. NHS Lothian will, depending on circumstances, arrange and pay for a taxi home for families. The service applies to parents that travel home with their children following treatment and also to parents that have to travel home on their own, should their child remain in hospital for treatment.
Councillor Fitzpatrick added: "Several people have contacted me to say that they haven't been aware of the service and have had to pay for taxis back to West Lothian so clearly many families do not know that this service even exists. It is very important that families do know how to access this service. I hope that families who are unfortunate enough to have to seek emergency treatment for their children at the RHSC don't have the added burden of paying out large sums of money to get home from hospital when a free service is in place."
NHS Lothian has clarified that families of children who are admitted to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children have always been given assistance to get home, if required, whether they are from West Lothian, East Lothian, Midlothian or Edinburgh and taxis are frequently arranged for families. A dedicated family support team, which works seven days week and a clinical coordinator, who works 24/7, will work with families to make sure they have transport, arrange it, or provide advice support or accommodation. They will proactively ask the family if they need transport during the admission/discharge process. The nursing team will also check the family's travel situation and help to arrange it if there are any difficulties.