Patient TravelOur patient travel team books around 180 flights a week for patients, and their support person, to centres outside the Nelson Marlborough Health district.  That’s around 700 flights a month, and around a hundred of them have to be booked at very short notice.

Lee Packer, the Team Leader for patient travel, says the team are extremely busy.

“They also help cover the enquiries desk, so there are lots of interruptions during their day,” she says.

When there was a period of change in staffing arrangements, Lee took the opportunity to introduce some new initiatives to the way the patient travel team delivered their service.

One major change has been the introduction of a spreadsheet which includes all the travel information for a patient – their flight details, the name of their support person, transfers and accommodation.

“Everyone on the team, including the Interpatient Transfer and Life Flight organiser, can access this spreadsheet,” she says. “This improved visibility means any of the team can look up and answer an enquiry about a patient’s travel arrangements.”

As a result of the changes continuity and communication has improved for the patients, and within the team.

Lee is also keeping data on why flights are cancelled or missed: “We get all sorts of reasons, from ‘my child had a sports day’ to ‘you didn’t send me a ticket’.”

The team tries to put some responsibility back on the patient and remind them to let the travel team know in good time if they haven’t received their tickets. They also refer people to the Ministry of Health’s National Travel Assistance guidelines which outlines the eligibility criteria for travel assistance.

“The staff are amazing, as many of the people they deal with are very emotionally drained by the time they talk to the patient travel team,” she says, “they work very collegially and are very patient focussed.”

In addition to making staff more aware of their role, the patient travel team have also embraced the move to be ‘paper-lite’ and try to keep things electronically rather than paper based.

However, Lee says they are always looking at ways they can improve things.