Health chiefs have splashed out £60,000 on a pair of golf buggies to ferry disabled patients to and from a hospital entrance – after putting blue-badge parking bays too far away from the main entrance. Bosses at the new £400 million University Hospital of North Staffordshire felt obliged to purchase the electric vehicle after realising patients were being forced to walk ‘unacceptable’ distances.
Concerns were raised after patients with wheelchairs, walking sticks or crutches were seen struggling up to 140 metres to the doors of the new super-hospital, which opened in March.
To qualify for a disabled person’s blue badge, a person must prove they cannot walk more than 50 metres without being in pain.
The hospital confirmed it was spending £60,000 on a pair of the vehicles.
A spokesman said: ‘We have been speaking to patients’ groups and residents’ associations and we have found there is an issue.
‘The bays are too far away from the main hospital entrance and it’s not acceptable to expect patients with blue badges for disabled parking to walk.
‘We’ve looked into the issue and found buggies are used in a similar way at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham and have been very successful, and we have found some funds to buy two.
‘The idea is they will pick up disabled patients from the edge of the parking area and take them to the main entrance.
‘The hospital site is still in transition and there is further work on car parking to be carried out – but we believe these buggies will help to improve the situation for the time-being.’
Pam Bryan, vice-chairman of Stoke-on-Trent District Disability Network, said: ‘The buggies are better than nothing, but they are not a permanent answer to the problem.
‘There will be questions about what happens if the buggies breakdown, and what sort of times they will be available.
‘It is, however, good to see the hospital taking the situation seriously.’
The hospital is now recruiting for volunteers to help drive the buggies around the complex.