Poor transport service reflects need for parity of esteem

December 9, 2015 at 2:44 pm

Callington Road Hospital transport ForumA collaboration was agreed between First Bus and Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership (AWP) at our recent open event, which aimed to create solutions over the poor transport provision for Callington Road Mental Health in Brislington, South Bristol.

It was BIMHN’s (Bristol Independent Mental Health Network) first ever open forum, and was attended by First managing director James Freeman, AWP managing director Sarah Branton and AWP transport representative Kate Houston, as well as members of the public.

Brislington West councillor Eileen Means was also in attendance, as well as prospective councillor Harriet Bradley.

BIMHN’s secretary, Tom Renhard, chaired the meeting.

Since First terminated the number 36, due to it being the “worst performing bus in Bristol”, and AWP withdrew its free bus earlier this year, because of “a series of issues”, there has been no regular service stopping directly outside the hospital.

A number of buses stop nearby the site, but require users to walk along a main road and through a poorly lit wooded area, which Avon and Somerset Police has actively discouraged people to walk though in low light.

Representatives from AWP and First were put in the hot seat by members of the public who raised a number of questions, which challenged the responsibility of both service providers.

James Freeman, managing director at First, said that he is aware that transport to the site is a “disaster”, but he cannot bring back the number 36.

He said: “The 36 was the most unreliable service in Bristol that covered lots of main roads, so it was prone to delays. Plus, going through Tesco caused considerable congestion.

“The least worse option we could do was to withdraw the service. Since it’s been re-directed it has benefitted and people are saying that the service is much better.

“As much as we’d like to, we can’t bring the 36 back. Re-diverting the bus back would cause serious issues for people using Wells Road.

“We need a different answer to this – we need to be imaginative and find a more sustainable way.”

Sarah Branton, AWP managing director, said: “If we continue to fund the bus, it would be out of the healthcare budget. But we would much rather spend this on building a new psychiatric clinic.

“Southmead Hospital is very well serviced, unlike Callington Road, which is a shame. We need to start having creative conversations and would welcome support from the council – there needs to be more parity of esteem.”

Kate Houston, AWP transport representative, also agreed that this would not be an issue if it was a hospital for people with physical illness.

AWP agreed that collaboration needs to be formed with First, and if an alternative could be found – such as a new stop at the end of Callington Road – the partnership would consider helping with costs.

Councillor, Eileen Means, said that she is aware of a number of families who are finding it very difficult to visit relatives at Callington Road Hospital.

“The council needs to focus on mental health issues, and stop using the excuse of transport deregulation.

“The 36 was a problem, now it’s dead and buried. We need to try and find money to establish a new route.”

Member of the audience, Heidi Owen from Bristol Mind, also commented that those receiving treatment at Callington Road have had their mental health “seriously compromised” by not having transport.

In addition, BIMHN member and campaigner Peter Hale said that service users need to be consulted more about decisions being made between providers, as it is having a “negative impact”.

As a temporary measure, councillor Means agreed to look into improving lighting for the pathway leading to the hospital by seeking funding from the local neighbourhood partnership.

A number of recommendations were put forward by BIMHN’s campaign officer, Amelia Campbell, which included AWP, the council and transport providers working more collaboratively; installing a new bus stop; increasing the number of buses serving the nearby area; re-evaluating transport strategies at regular intervals to ensure patient care remains main focus in decision making; and effectively marketing transport to the site.

Amelia said: “It’s great to see that AWP and First Bus are willing to work together on this. BIMHN’s responsibility now is it make sure that they continue to talk to one another, with discussions being had with the council about what role they can play.

“Our desire is to create a long-term solution for users of Callington Road Hospital, and that mental health is given more parity of esteem in Bristol as a whole.”

A further meeting is planned for early next year to discuss potential ideas with more key stakeholders invited to be a part of the solution.Would you like more information or to get involved? Email

December 9, 2015 at 2:44 pm | News | No comment

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