An Alternative Transport Service has been put in place to support the health and social care system across Oldham.
Organisations across Oldham are working together to provide the new service, which is in addition to the transportation services already used in Oldham provided by Falck, North West Ambulance Service and British Red Cross.
The Alternative Transport Service means more patients can be transported to their accommodation quicker, whether that’s from hospital back to their own home, hospital to care home, one care home to another or housing association etc.
Vehicles will either be used for COVID or non-COVID patients to avoid any cross contamination and to reduce the risk of transmission.
Oldham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), Oldham Council, Age UK, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) and Falck have joined forces to provide the service.
Oldham CCG has provided project leadership, mobile phones for staff and volunteers working on the service and also arranged for staff and volunteers to have the appropriate email access they need to be able to share patient records securely.
Oldham Council has provided joint project leadership with the CCG, drivers for the service, volunteer escorts to assist with patient transfer, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) coordination, temporary bulkheads and also the fuel for the vehicles.
Age UK has provided three mini buses which allows for wheelchair access. They are also providing a driver, an escort and the admin coordination to take the referral and forward it on to the relevant driver.
Patient, volunteer and staff safety is paramount and to make sure everyone remains safe, one minibus will transport COVID patients only and the others will transport non-COVID patients.
All escorts will wear PPE regardless of which minibus they are working on. Escorts will clean the minibuses between patients and a professional cleaning company will carry out a deep clean at end of each day.
GMFRS has provided drivers for the vehicles and also provided local authority staff and volunteers with uniforms including steel toe-capped boots.
Falck already provide Emergency Ambulance Services and Patient Transport Services across the NHS in Oldham, but in addition to this they have arranged free training for drivers and escorts to assist with the new service and offered ongoing advice and guidance.
In order for a patient to be referred to the Alternative Transport Service, whether they have COVID or not, a health and social care professional will need to complete a referral form; this is not a service that patients can access directly.
Mike Barker, Chief Operating Officer for Oldham CCG, said: "This is an example of true collaborative work, with multiple organisations and agencies across Oldham working together to create a service that will benefit so many patients. This service will enable patients to get back to their more permanent accommodation quicker, allowing them to focus on their continued recuperation.
"Close working relationships with other organisations have never been so important; this is something we have focused on prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Establishing these working relationships has resulted in us being able to identify services that are required and by sharing knowledge and working together, we have been able to quickly turn them around into a fully functional service."
Councillor Zahid Chauhan, cabinet member for health and social care, said: "I am proud that my colleagues at all levels in a number of Oldham partnership organisations have come together to provide an enhanced transport service at this challenging time.
"This will help some of our most vulnerable people as they are discharged from health and social care settings and I am particularly proud of the disability access these extra vehicles have which is crucial for the quality of care we look to offer Oldham residents.
"We are particularly grateful to Age UK, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue and a number of volunteers for providing their time and resources. The vehicles will be will be fuelled from the councils Moorhey Street Depot."
Keep up to date with all the latest local and national developments here: https://www.