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Passenger numbers on the Haverhill to West Suffolk Hospital bus service have risen by more than 80 per cent

The use of a bus service that links Haverhill to West Suffolk Hospital, described by some passengers as a ‘lifeline’, has jumped by more than 80 per cent compared to 12 months earlier.

The service was launched on August 1, 2018 and is operated by the Voluntary Network – Suffolk County Council’s Connecting Communities operator in West Suffolk.

Usage had been lower than anticipated, leading to an appeal last October for more people to use it – a plea that appears to have had some impact.

The launch of the Haverhill to West Suffolk Hospital bus in August 2018. Picture by Mark Westley.
The launch of the Haverhill to West Suffolk Hospital bus in August 2018. Picture by Mark Westley.

Caroline Robinson, managing director at The Voluntary Network, said that usage of the service the last three months is 84 per cent higher than over the same period in 2018 and 35 per cent higher than in the third quarter of 2019.

She added: “We know the service has been a lifeline to our passengers, enabling them to readily access West Suffolk Hospital for medical appointments, essential support during times of ill health.

“We have helped 182 passengers in just the last nine months and passengers have made clear that the service has become a lifeline.

“We are able to collect passengers from any bus stop in Haverhill, taking them direct to the hospital, vital for those with mobility or general health issues.

“The service also extends to 30 villages including Wickhambrook, Kedington, Hundon and Hargrave.

“We have enabled passengers to attend chemotherapy, visit relatives and even to volunteer.

“There has been a significant increase in patronage and as such we are hopeful it will be financially supported beyond April but are awaiting an outcome.”

The service had been funded by Suffolk County Council until last April, having initially been run as a pilot scheme for the first six months.

Funding was then secured for another year through the West Suffolk Alliance, consisting of West Suffolk NHS Clinical Commissioning Group, Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT), Suffolk County Council and the Suffolk GP Federation in both.

The service operates Monday to Friday, 7am until 7pm and concessionary bus pass holder can travel for free. Please call 01638 664304 for further information.

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