The HSE has no statutory obligation to provide patient transport, other than emergency transport. The cost to the health service of providing non-emergency patient transport, in particular for outpatient (OPD) appointments, has been escalating in recent years and non-essential provision has been identified as an area suitable for budgetary control. Accordingly, criteria have been restricted considerably in recent times and a uniform approach is being rolled out across the health regions.
In general, patients are expected to make their own way to and from hospital and OPD appointments, using private or scheduled public transport. The exceptions are for dialysis, cancer (radiotherapy and chemotherapy) and post-operative transplant patients. In these cases, the patient's appointment should be directly related to the treatment. Transport may also be provided where, in the clinician's view, the patient would be unable to make the journey without clinical assistance or where the patient must be transported on a stretcher.
Where transport has been withdrawn, having previously been provided, this may be as a result of the Local Health Office (LHO) beginning to implement the national criteria. If a patient feels there is a genuine case for provision, then they should approach the LHO. If they feel there is a genuine clinical reason for transport to be provided, their clinician should make a case for it.
Under the supplementary welfare allowance (SWA) scheme, the Department of Social Protection may make a single payment to help meet essential, once-off, exceptional expenditure, which a person could not reasonably be expected to meet out of their weekly income. These payments are known as Exceptional Needs Payments (ENPs). The amount paid, if any, is assessed by Departmental staff (former Community Welfare Officers) on a case by case basis, depending on the nature of each particular exceptional need and the type of assistance required. There is no automatic entitlement to such payments i.e. the fact that a person is dependent on a social welfare or HSE payment does not necessarily mean that they will qualify for an ENP.