Passengers with concessionary bus passes are now able to travel free on the pre-bookable bus service connecting Haverhill and its surrounding villages to West Suffolk Hospital.
The service, which has been running for nearly a year, provides a vital link between communities to the west of Bury St Edmunds and the hospital.
Until recently, senior citizens, students and the disabled with concessionary passes were not able to use them on the service, which is operated by The Voluntary Network.
But now they ARE able to travel for free, thanks to their fares being funded by the West Suffolk Alliance.
Lois Wreathall, Head of Primary Care for the NHS West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group, a member of the alliance, said: “We were pleased to provide funding to enable concessionary passes to be used on this vital route.
“The lack of public transport in rural areas has an impact on health inequalities and it is essential we make the hospital as accessible as we possibly can.
“I hope the funding the alliance has provided will make it easier for patients from Haverhill and villages to the west of Bury St Edmunds to access the care and treatment they need.”
Dr Stephen Dunn CBE, Chief Executive of West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, said: “This is a much needed service for patients and staff travelling to and from Haverhill to West Suffolk Hospital and enables patients to access our services more easily.
“Making concessionary passes valid on this service will support even more of our community to use this convenient, environmentally-friendly service for our rural patients and employees.”
People from Haverhill and the surrounding villages are able to book rides to the hospital online by going to https://communities.suffolkonboard.com/
Alternatively, they can book transport by telephoning 01638-664304.
Villages serviced by the route include Withersfield, Calford Green, Kedington, Great Wratting, Barnardiston, Great Thurlow, Hundon, Sowley Green, Hobbies Green, Pound Green, Cowlinge, Farley Green, Stradishall, Denston, Assington Green, Stansfield, Hawkedon, Clopton Green, Wickhambrook, Rede, Depden, Hargrave, Chedburgh, Chevington, Whepstead and Horringer.
The West Suffolk Alliance comprises Suffolk County Council, West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, Suffolk GP Federation and Norfolk and Suffiolk NHS Foundation Trust, working closely with the NHS West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group.
The alliance sees its partnership with wider stakeholders, including local district and borough councils, the East of England NHS Ambulance Service Trust, independent care providers and the voluntary and community sector, employers, education providers and business, as crucial.