THE free hospital shuttle bus that provides essential access to East Lancashire hospitals for many Hyndburn folk has been slashed by a third.
East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust is reducing its current timetable of a bus every 20 minutes Monday to Friday to a bus every 30 minutes outside the Burnley General Hospital and the Royal Blackburn Hospital.
The Trust says the decision has been made to reduce costs, improve efficiency and congestion around its sites.
Whilst this means an extra waiting time for users of up to 10 minutes, it means that the number of journeys the buses make per day will reduce by about 15 and the Trust will make a saving of almost £115,000.
Hyndburn Council Leader, Councillor Peter Britcliffe said: 'I this is a real problem, many people rely on these buses to get to the hospitals to visit relatives.
'We must remember a lot of people visiting hospitals are elderly and depend heavily on this service. I don't think the Trust realise how needed this service is that they are cutting.'
But Chris Hodgson, Associate Director of Estates and Facilities for East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, justifies the decision by saying: 'The shuttle bus was designed to make access to East Lancashire hospitals even easier and it has been used by thousands of members of staff and the public.
'This is a completely free service and is paid for entirely by the Trust.
'To ensure we are getting the most out of our investment in this service, we have looked carefully at the usage of the buses.
'We can see that on certain times of day, as few as two people are on the bus. Not only is this not a good use of resources, it cannot be environmentally justified either. The new timetable is designed to be responsive to demand.
'By reducing the number of journeys per day, we can make a saving approximately equivalent to the salaries of three staff members, making the service more affordable and sustainable for the Trust. It will also decrease the amount of traffic going to and from the hospital sites.
'As always, we remain flexible and we will continue to monitor the usage of the bus, and our timetable will reflect the trends we see. East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust continues to be committed to providing this free service for the benefit of staff and patients alike.'