Health Matters



Living well with Dementia

Those of us caring for loved ones with dementia can find it extremely challenging to ensure that they remain happy and contented. Often we, unintentionally, do things that make matters worse. The Contented Dementia Trust promotes lifelong wellbeing for people with dementia. It recommends simple but powerful approaches that can bring about immediate improvements in quality of life. Their revolutionary approach in summarised in Oliver James’s book “Contented Dementia” and we hear reports of amazing benefits. Well worth a read. The Trust also runs short training courses. See their website –

“Down Memory Lane” is a respite morning every Saturday at Otford Methodist Church for those with memory loss. The volunteers there use the methods promoted by the Trust. Contact group leader Carolyn Knight 01732 743 056




We are currently running a survey on how our Members get to hospitals, their GPs and other health services.  The survey covers a number of very straight forward questions like, ‘Do you have a car?’,  ‘Do you have any problem getting to your GP’s surgery?’,  and so on.

The results of the survey will help us to influence hospital authorities, councils, and transport providers so that we can all access our medical services easily.  The following UPDATE is Merilyn Canet’s first formal report on the survey.

Getting to the Hospital, the Doctor’s or to Other Health Services

A Special report on the Transport to Hospital Survey being conducted by

SDSAF Vice Chairman, Merilyn Canet

By April 2012, we had received over 140 replies to the SDSAF survey form on how we get to hospitals and other health services.  The concerns expressed are summarised here along with some views on what could happen next and some conclusions.


1        Hospital transport        Traditional Hospital Transport has been greatly reduced without our being informed that this was to happen. Medical Practices and Sheltered Housing Scheme Managers did not know of these changes until they tried to arrange transport for elderly, ill and vulnerable people, and were refused help.

2a      Travel Planning             Tunbridge Wells Pembury Hospital – a centre of excellence which cost many millions to build had no travel plan or 106 agreement for Sevenoaks, Edenbridge or the villages in between.

2b      There has been inadequate planning of how the Patients, many of whom are elderly, non-drivers, chronically sick or on low incomes, will get to the services,. Younger family members (if there are any) may live at a distance, if in work may be reluctant or unable to take time off for fear of losing their employment.

3        Communicating Decisions      There has been poor communication of decisions to the people who are or will be affected.

4        Implications of Treatment      Loss of fitness to drive after treatment or illness may affect some people – eye treatment at Maidstone, oncology treatments at Maidstone, often over many months. After some illnesses people may still be able to drive very locally but getting to a new place along unfamiliar roads and coping with parking may be unwise or impossible. Some people can only drive safely in daylight up to quite a young age i.e. 70.

5        Special Needs       People with walking aids or poor vision may just be able to get about but be unable to cope with bus or train.

6        Public Transport Impact on Appointments         The current public transport provision means that appointments may be missed because of the unavailability or unreliability of public transport. This is a waste to the NHS and causes distress to the patient.

7        Communicating Appointments         Appointments sent by post may be unopened or unread. Text sent to mobile phones could be useful and emails. Make it easier to change appointments by phone.

8        Help with Recovery       Visitors are also unable to help with a relative or friend’s recovery because of the transport difficulties make visits hard to manage and too short.

9        Increasing Risk    Probably more people with cars are scared to stop driving even when they recognize that it might be sensible to stop now or in the near future.

10      Costs          Most people will need to know about costs so that they can save up for visits to essential health care facilities. A taxi from Sevenoaks may cost £60 return to Pembury not a paltry sum out of a small pension income.


1        SDSAF Help          SDSAF has already taken up some concerns with the people who can do something in the NHS e.g. later appointment times so that people can use their free bus passes but more could be done including bunching appointments for patients from a geographic area so that they could use a minibus, and transferring more follow up services to local Medical Practices?

2        Communicating Appointments         Appointments could be sent by text to mobile phones and emails.  It needs to be easy to change appointments by phone.

3        Better Advertising of Voluntary Services  Like Dial-a-Ride Inshape, town council newsletters, U3A newsletters and SDSAF can all help to get information out to the community on available services and opportunities.  Hospital Appointment people, carers, CAB, doctors, pharmacies and libraries should know about these services so that they all can help.  Successful businesses have learnt how to inform people on what they offer: we should learn from them.  Prescriptions, food and pizzas are all being delivered now: this is comparatively new and a great help.

4        Funding      Sevenoaks District Council and the town councils could consider funding known as CIL (community infrastructure levy) for more voluntary schemes like Dial-a-Ride, Volunteer Drivers or subsidising taxis.


The survey shows me that there is much anger and worry about how the correspondents are coping now and in the future. There is little information about what preparations people should make to help themselves,  by getting accurate details of buses, trains or costs of taxis or other transport providers i.e. Dial-a-Ride. There are some voluntary transport groups but their costs are increasing and their availability too small for the size of the problem.

I have only surveyed older people but many younger people especially women with young children have similar problems. Most people that I have spoken to seem not to know that much transport to hospital has been withdrawn.

Merilyn Canet

If you would like to add your views on Transport to Hospital and other health services, please click  SDSAF Transport Survey Questionnaire April 12 to download the file.  Details of how to return your responses are on the questionnaire.

This is clearly an important campaign for our Members and others of 50 years plus.  The more completed survey forms we receive, the more we can take the case to the hospital authorites and to those responsible for transport.



© 2012 Sevenoaks District Seniors Action Forum Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha