Provided there's transport: Transport as a barrier to accessing health care in NSW

Public health Australia New South Wales
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Transport plays a vital role in enabling access healthcare. Yet for many people, it is a major barrier; impacting their ability to receive the health care they need.

Over the last decade and a half, the lack of support for health transport has been regularly identified as a significant gap in the health system. It is of particular concern to the community services sector working on behalf of people experiencing disadvantage in NSW, and for organisations supporting people with chronic illness.

There have been many efforts to tackle transport as a barrier to accessing health services and in 2006, the development of NSW Health’s Transport for Health Policy was considered an overdue, but significant step forward. Disappointingly, however, many elements of the policy were implemented poorly, if at all.

In 2012, following consistent reports from the social and community services sector highlighting health transport as an ongoing and growing concern, NCOSS hosted two health transport workshops in Sydney and Lismore to examine the current state of play. Attended by representatives from health services, government departments, community transport groups, and other non-government organisations, these workshops confirmed that for the people who most need transport assistance, there has been little real change.

Participants expressed frustration at the lack of support for health transport and concern over a widening gap. Funding for health transport has failed to keep pace with demographic changes, and transport needs continue to be largely ignored in the delivery of health services.

Many of those people and organisations involved in the workshops have made significant contributions to the delivery of health transport services in their local areas. Yet they feel they are fighting an uphill battle. While successful initiatives were identified across NSW, it became clear that too often they rest on the passion and commitment of an individual, and are not adequately supported by Government policies, structures and resources.

This report documents the issues raised during these workshops and draws on the existing literature to demonstrate that the key issues relating to health transport have not been addressed, and provides recommendations towards a more efficient and equitable health transport system.

We hope that this report will act as a catalyst for action; that the NSW Government will take this opportunity to work in partnership with the community services sector and other stakeholders to build a better system; and that individuals and organisations will find it a useful resource as they continue to advocate for improvements.

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