All aboard the new Hospital Hopper
 
A new service from Braintree District Council looks set to end the struggle experienced by many elderly and disabled residents in the Braintree district to get to hospital appointments at Broomfield, Braintree Community and Halstead hospitals on public transport.
The Hospital Hopper, a new service from Braintree District Council’s award winning community transport team, will take to the road from Monday 20th February.
The Hospital Hopper will offer a free and direct ‘shuttle service’ for any person with a concessionary bus pass who is unable to access conventional public transport to travel to any of the three hospitals.  For people with disabilities, elderly or those unable to walk a door-to-door service can be arranged.  The service will run from Monday to Friday up to three times a day – depending on local need. The service is also available to those without a concessionary bus pass – on payment of fares.

Cllr Joanne Beavis, Cabinet Member for Communities "We are extremely pleased to be able to launch the Hospital Hopper Service to expand the valuable work already being undertaken by the Community Transport Team. Community transport remains one of our top priorities enabling hundreds of elderly and vulnerable residents in our district the freedom to be able to access services and locations around our district.”
Braintree District Council is working in partnership with Essex County Council which has enabled this year long pilot initiative to go head by providing a £30,000 grant. This has been used to fund a driver salary for one year and assist with the purchase of a minibus - a 12 seat Renault Master, wheelchair accessible bus.
 
Cllr Chapman, Essex County Council said: “This will be an invaluable asset to the local community and I am delighted that the new bus service will be up and running soon. This is an important step forward for residents who are currently unable to travel and will allow them greater access to hospital facilities.”
 
Initially the service will serve 9 areas – 8 of which do not have a direct bus link to Broomfield Hospital. The areas have been carefully selected as providing the best opportunity to run an efficient service that will benefit the maximum number of people in the district. These are: Castle Hedingham, Sible Hedingham, Gosfield, Halstead, Greenstead Green, Earls Colne, White Colne, Colne Engaine, and Braintree.

Paul Forden, (CEO) Braintree Community Hospital said: “This is marvelous news. It can be very difficult for those who are elderly or require assistance to get to hospital for appointments and the new Hospital Hopper will ensure that patients can exercise choice as to where they are treated taking into consideration proximity to their homes and soonest availability. We welcome the launch of the service and know it will make a real difference to the local community and make access to services at Braintree Hospital much easier.”
Once a seat has been booked and pick up point arranged, users simply show their bus pass on boarding. Non bus pass holders can use the service but will need to pay for the full cost of the journey. Dogs that assist disabled people are welcome and travel free. Escorts are welcome but they will need to show a valid bus pass or pay the fare.

Dilys Harrison from Braintree is an 80 year old user of community transport – she said:  “Community Transport is a wonderful service – a tremendous help to elderly people.  The new Hospital Hopper will be a wonderful service too.” 
To book a seat or to enquire about fares for non concessionary bus pass holders, call 01376 327357 or email community.transport@braintree.gov.uk  As spaces on the bus will be allocated on a first come first served basis, passengers are advised to book as soon as their appointment date is known. More details at http://www.braintree.gov.uk/Braintree/news/press+releases/All+aboard+the+new+Hospital+Hopper.htm