Health chiefs have splashed out £60,000 on golf buggies to ferry disabled patients to hospital – after putting blue-badge parking bays too far away from the main entrance.
Bosses at the new £400 million University Hospital of North Staffordshire (UHNS) will adopt the new mode of transport after it admitted patients had to walk “unacceptable” distances from their cars.
Concerns were raised after patients with wheelchairs, walking sticks and crutches were left to struggle up to 140 metres (459ft) to the doors of the new super-hospital, which opened in March.
To qualify for a disabled person’s blue badge, a person must prove they cannot walk more than 50 metres (164ft) without being in pain.
The hospital confirmed it was spending £60,000 on a pair of the vehicles.
A hospital spokesman said: “We have been speaking to patients’ groups and residents’ associations and we have found there is an issue.
“The bays are too far away from the main hospital entrance and it’s not acceptable to expect patients with blue badges for disabled parking to walk.
“We’ve looked into the issue and found buggies are used in a similar way at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham and have been very successful, and we have found some funds to buy two.
“The idea is they will pick up disabled patients from the edge of the parking area and take them to the main entrance.
“The hospital site is still in transition and there is further work on car parking to be carried out – but we believe these buggies will help to improve the situation for the time-being.”
Pam Bryan, vice-chairman of Stoke-on-Trent District Disability Network, said: “The buggies are better than nothing, but they are not a permanent answer to the problem.
“There will be questions about what happens if the buggies breakdown, and what sort of times they will be available.
“It is, however, good to see the hospital taking the situation seriously.”
The hospital is now recruiting for volunteers to help drive the buggies around the complex.