Simon Stevens suggests bus pass funding should move to care

 

bususers

 

Passenger lobby group Bus Users has hit out at suggestions made by the chief executive of NHS England that free buses should be phased out in favour of extra funding for social care.

Simon Stevens told MPs on the communities and local government select committee  last week that there is “no point” in funding ring-fenced free concessionary bus travel when the care system was struggling.

Arguing in favour of reforms that would improve social care for the elderly and disabled people, Stevens called for a “triple guarantee” of promises on care for older people in favour of the triple lock pension guarantee.

“There is no point in saying to our parents ‘yes, you’ve got a free bus pass’ if you’re not able to leave the house because you don’t have the availability of a home help,” he said.

“It seems to me there’s no point saying we are putting all the available increases into a triple lock pensions – including for much better off pensioners – if it then means you’ve got 14 or 15% of pensioners living in poverty and still not able to get the social care that they need.

“So we’ve got to have a single conversation about the new social contract for our older people.”

“Personally I have some sympathy with his call for more funding for the NHS but taking away a lifeline from elderly people is not the way to plug the gap.”

Bus Users rejected the suggestion. Norman Baker, the group’s chair and a former transport minister in the coalition government, said that providing access to transport is in itself meeting a basic care need.

“Simon Stevens argues that there is no point in free transport if the person is unable to leave their home through lack of care,” said Baker. “But the opposite is also true. What is the point of improving health services if people are stuck at home and unable to access them?

“Personally I have some sympathy with his call for more funding for the NHS but taking away a lifeline from elderly people is not the way to plug the gap.”

Research by cross-industry lobby group Greener Journeys last year discovered that for every £1 spent on concessionary bus travel, it generated at least £2.87 in benefits to bus pass users as well as other bus and road users. It found that free travel also allowed easier access for users to essential services and healthcare facilities.

 

This article appears inside the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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