We need a Chase Farm bus review

Enfield Over 50s Forum president Monty Meth on why a direct bus to the hospital from Oakwood Station is now essential

I know that the coronavirus crisis is uppermost in everyone’s mind at the moment, but there will be life after Covid-19 and there will be problems that still need solving post-pandemic.

Chase Farm Hospital is being upgraded into one of the two major hip and knee repair and replacement surgery centres in London. By this time next year, it will be one of the most digitally-advanced hospitals in the country, with dedicated operating theatres and beds for overnight stays, and expects to have between 400 and 700 more orthopaedic patients.

Chase Farm will be meeting a growing demand from an increasingly elderly population for surgery to hips, knees, shoulders, elbows, feet, ankles and hands. There will be many more patients and visitors travelling from all parts of North Central London, the NHS region it serves, with its 1.6 million population.

In a booklet outlining these planned changes, North London Partners in Health and Care, a partnership of 28 health and social care organisations, admits: “There may be disadvantages for some people. Some patients may have to travel further on the day of their operation. Visitors may have to travel further.”

At Enfield Over 50s Forum, we believe this is nowhere near good enough. We think that London mayor Sadiq Khan, as chair of Transport for London (TfL), should now be instructing TfL executives to update their route plans to Chase Farm, to reduce the discomfort and pain currently being experienced by patients while travelling for surgery.

We have long argued that the most efficient public transport service to Chase Farm from anywhere in London is via the Piccadilly Line; Oakwood Station, 2.5 miles away, is step-free. But there are no direct buses to the hospital from Oakwood and, instead, rail users need to get a bus to Enfield Town, walk to London Road, and catch the W8. We are calling for a new re-routed bus direct to the hospital.

Forum member Nicola McDowell initiated a petition some years ago for such a bus, which fell on deaf ears. This has become more urgent, as Chase Farm now receives many patients from north-west London. TfL persists in suggesting patients, who may have already travelled for an hour or more, alight at Southgate Station and take a W9 bus to the hospital, a 34-minute journey involving 22 bus stops. It also advises patients from places such as Kentish Town and Gospel Oak to use Great Northern services to Gordon Hill, where there are steps to negotiate and no lift, before taking a bus to Chase Farm.

Natalie Forrest, the Chase Farm chief executive, has met with forum officers and promised full support for a renewed approach to TfL, asking to review its outdated public transport advice to access the hospital. We will be urging the NHS, as part of its equalities impact assessment, to place much greater emphasis on securing a public transport service to match its promise that the changes will lead to a “significant improvement” in patient care. You can add your voice by writing to Freepost NLP Orth Consultation (no need for a stamp).