‘Witnessing the last words of patients is a privilege’: Life on the front line of St George’s Hospital transport service

More than 3,000 patients are transported to an excess of 1,000 treatment centres by London’s NHS Patient Transport Service every day.

And for the last nine years Moe Mengrani has been on the front line of St George’s Hospital’s transport services.

Working so closely with patients, many who suffer from chronic and terminal illnesses, Moe can sometimes be the last person they communicate with.

The 44-year-old said: “Many relatives want their loved-ones to die at home rather than in hospital.

“It’s really heavy work, but witnessing the last words of patients in their final moments is a privilege.”

Moe, who lives in Grove Park, Bromley, with his wife and three-year-old daughter, is in charge of managing two transport lounges, which are usually filled to the brim with patients waiting to be collected by the special ambulance taxis provided by the hospital.

“Patients can be walking, in a wheelchair or bed bound. Some need transporting between hospitals, others between hospitals and their homes,” he said.

Up to 350 patients can move through the lounges on a daily basis and ensuring hundreds of patients get from point A to point B is demanding work.

“I realise that if I don’t do my job effectively, people suffer,” he said.

To guarantee all patients reach their final destination, Moe, who is a former ambulance driver, often goes beyond the call of duty.

He said: “My working hours are officially 8am-5pm but I usually get in at 7am and never leave until the waiting rooms are empty and all patients have been transported to where they need to go.

“Sometimes if there’s no driver available to take a patient home, I will do it myself.”

St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, comprising St George’s Hospital and Queen Mary’s Hospital, are southwest London’s largest healthcare provider, catering to 1.3million people.

At the same time, the NHS is experiencing its largest aggregate deficit ever recorded at £1.85billion, according to The King’s Fund’s Deficits in the NHS 2016 quarterly report.

“The principal cause of the deficit is the fact that funding has not kept pace with the increasing demand for services,” the report claims.

Toby Scott, communications manager for the National Council for Palliative Care and the Dying Matters coalition, said: “Everyone deserves good end of life care and transportation is a very important issue.”

With so many patients moving through St George’s Hospital every day and limited vehicles to transport them, tensions can run high.

Approximately 50 complaints a day are lodged by frustrated patients who want to get to their next destination.

“Ambulance taxis are a unique service to the UK. People don’t realise what a great system they have access to,” Moe said.

Despite occasionally being on the receiving end of patients’ grievances, Moe forms close relationships with the people who pass through St George’s transportation lounges.

“I always see every patient as a family member,” he said.

Moe’s work has not gone unnoticed and this year he was presented with the hospital’s ‘Champion for Quality End of Life’ award.

Asked if he could ever envisage changing careers, he said: “No – I get so much satisfaction out of my job.

“It’s stressful at times, but that stress is offset by the rewards of looking after people.”

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