Older people, those with long-term health or social care needs, and people living on low incomes without a car, often need support to get to the hospital for an appointment with their GP, or to access the local day care centre.
Community transport forms a significant part of this support, whether it’s provided by the ambulance service, council, health boards, and indeed, the voluntary sector.
When Scotland’s public spending watchdog, Audit Scotland, published its report into community transport in August 2011, it said that users of health and care services were losing out, and that millions were being wasted because of a lack of joined up thinking between various transport agencies.
A full two and a half years later, and still, little progress has been made to resolve the problem.
Audit Scotland confirmed this last week, when they provided a briefing to the Scottish Parliament’s health committee which I convene.
This state of affairs was also confirmed, when representatives from the health boards and the voluntary sector gave evidence.
Indeed, in Inverclyde, as my casework will confirm, that the failure to adequately address this issue, results in missed appointments, longer journeys, longer waits to be discharged from hospital to home, and financial hardship for families visiting loved ones at hospitals in Paisley and Glasgow.
With the demand on community transport services set to rise due to an increasing elderly population, the need to ensure we have an integrated system that better meets the needs of the people is all the more urgent.
Here in Inverclyde, we have the resource and the potential to create such a system of transport for the good of the community, and I will be working hard to ensure that this potential is realised.