Help your patients get to Melbourne for specialist care
Improve health outcomes for regional Victorians 
Join our innovative pilot today

What’s happening

LINK and its partners are piloting a door-to-door assisted transport service for patients in regional areas to gain better access to Medical Specialist services in Melbourne. 

The pilot service will bring patients to Melbourne to receive medical specialist care including consults, treatment or tests.

It’s available to patients and referring medical practitioners in the Bendigo Regional Corridor, and Melbourne-based specialists and clinics. This includes regions in the greater Bendigo area and down through Heathcote, Macedon Ranges and Sunbury.

The pilot is focused on same day-return trips. The service can support people who need assistance for general welfare, social support, and mobility issues and/or require financial and logistics support to travel. It cannot assist people who need medical assistance during transit. 

The pilot will run for six months, between May and October 2023 with support from the Department of Transport’s Flexible Local Transport Solutions Program.

Why we’re doing it

Regional residents deserve equity of access to health services, yet it can be difficult to have all forms of specialist treatment available at all locations. This can see patient outcomes suffer. Even with telehealth improving access to specialist care, sometimes people need to travel to access services.

While travelling to Melbourne isn’t ideal, it’s sometimes necessary for people to receive vital care, diagnoses or treatment.

Financial and social costs of travelling to appointments, can prevent people from accessing services or maintaining compliance with their ongoing treatment plans, especially when they need assistance to get there.

The pilot will quantify demand, insights and solutions that can be expanded to other regional and rural patients and communities. And identify how this service can be delivered in a sustainable and viable way.

Addressing issues of transport access and equity can also take pressure off the healthcare and medical transport system, and improve health outcomes for people living in regional and rural areas.

We’re calling GPs and medical specialists to join the pilot

Interested? Curious? What to stay updated on the pilot?

Then please email Dani at: 

More facts about this pilot

What we’ll test and how it’ll work

This pilot will create and test:

  • A Transport Referral/Prescription process 
  • Door-to-door online booking system
  • Network of cars and buses using transit points.

It means regional GPs and practice nurses can referring patients to transport services that can help them get to Melbourne for medical specialist care, tests or treatments.

We’re imagining a key step is asking patients if they need help getting there, and referring them to access the transport assistance that is available to them.

This will be facilitated through a transport referral form and online booking system.

What the service looks like

The service will include:

  • Registered (intake and assessment) clients only. No unregistered (walk-up) transit.
  • Pick up from home to transit point
  • Group transit to North-West Melbourne interchange
  • Transfer to major medical specialist hubs across Melbourne
  • Same day return trip.

Patients will be collected from home (or nominated pickup address), and taken to regional transit points from where they’ll be driven to a north-west-suburban group transit point. From here they are  taken to various medical specialist hubs across Melbourne e.g. regions covering Parkville or East Melbourne, or specialist care in hospitals at Peter Mac, Northern Health or The Austin.

The pilot will discover effective areas for the geographical coverage, operational logistics and fees. This detail will be ready for launch.

Who’s this pilot for

Patients in the pilot pickup/drop off areas in and around Bendigo and Heathcote. The exact kilometre range is being explored through the design and roll out of the pilot program.

Patients going to any medical specialist service in Melbourne that need non-medical, non-urgent transport assistance to get there.

This includes:

  • consults, treatment or testing
  • first time referrals and repeat visits
  • same-day return trips.

The type of transport assistance provided is

  • non-medical transfers only, and does not provide medical care
  • pickups from any point in the pilot area e.g. from home, aged care, clinic or community hub
  • designed to service general welfare, social and mobility issues e.g. wheelchair, walkers
  • staffed by aged and disability accredited workers
  • aware of the needs of language, culturally diverse and vulnerable groups

Provision of higher levels of mobility and social assistance to help people to access their appointments within destination hospitals (and for other needs) will be explored through the pilot

Patients can be any age and can have a companion join them.

All travellers must be non-violent and not pose a risk to others.

Importantly, it’s not for everyone. Here’s who the pilot service IS NOT FOR:

  • This pilot is not a replacement for patients who require ambulance or NEPT medicalised transport. It is not staffed or provisioned to provide any form of medical care.
  • Patients who can be violent or pose a risk to other patients or other people travelling with them.
  • People outside the pilot catchment area. (Exact details available at launch).
When it starts

This is a six-month pilot. It will run from May to the end of October.

We will start small, test materials and responsive routes. We’ll adapt it, based on demand, use and feedback.

At this stage, we cannot say what will happen after October, but will be exploring the application of different funding and support programs for this service. We will know more throughout the pilot, and document findings in a final report. This will be shared with pilot participants and service users.

What it costs

We are piloting and exploring the application of various funded support programs to this service to demonstrate their ongoing viable use. Each program will be applied according to its rules for eligible patients. Full fee-paying, and philanthropic support for financial hardship will form part of the pilot. We will provide a clear communication of client costs for the pilot launch.

We understand it needs to be affordable, and will integrate existing funding sources where possible.

Who's involved

LINK is leading the pilot, with support from the Victorian Department of Transport and regional health leaders. 

This pilot is led by LINK Community & Transport in partnership with the Department of Transport’s Flexible Local Transport Solutions Program. This program funds and supports flexible, innovative transport services or trials, and small-scale infrastructure projects in regional Victoria. 

We’re working with regional health leaders and innovators in the Loddon Mallee region, including Heathcote Health, Bendigo Health, the Royal Flying Doctor Service, Murray PHN and others including a number of relevant State Government Departments.

Other partners are welcome. Please contact us.

Why this approach. What it can achieve

Regional and Rural Victorians experience disadvantage and inequity in accessing medical specialist care and treatment.

  • Most medical specialists are in Melbourne. And the further out you go, the less there are.
  • The further you need to travel, the less likely you are to access the care you need. This adds to poorer health, social and financial outcomes.
  • Telehealth has improved access, but can’t do everything. Digital connectivity is poor in some areas, and certain checks, testing (diagnostics) and treatments still need to be done in person or on site.

Medical and transport resources are stretched.

  • Demand for ambulance and non-emergency transport is increasing. And volunteer transport services were hit by COVID-19, and haven’t picked up.
  • Not all patients qualify for these services, but they still need transport assistance.
  • Populations in regions are growing which adds pressure on already stretched services.
  • This pilot service hopes to identify a sustainable method to fill a gap between taxis and Non Emergency Patient Transport.

Technology and community transport (assisted transport) providers can offer flexible solutions to address this and provide a viable service.

We can do this when we bring all players together, to create solutions that are practical and fit in to current referral practices and systems, as well as making better use of funding and flexible transport solutions.

Importantly, we’re adopting an integrated approach to delivering value and benefits

This is an opportunity to create an innovative and practical solution for our healthcare system through harnessing technology, funding and the flexibility and experience of innovative transport providers to:

  • Improve health and wellbeing outcomes for regional Victorians
  • Address the greater financial, mental and social impacts on regional patients
  • Provide a new way to mitigate regional shortages and reduced access to specialist medical care and treatment
  • Reduce pressure on stretched Ambulance and Non-Emergency Patient Transport
  • Provide an all-needs assisted transport service delivering equity of access to services for vulnerable Victorians.
Contact us or stay updated

We’re delighted to share more with you or have you involved.

You can contact the project team directly, to find out more or sign up for updates and launch information.





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