A DESPERATE campaign for a direct bus service from Yate to Southmead Hospital has been launched before Frenchay Hospital is downgraded next year.

Calls have been made for improved public transport to Southmead, which will become the region’s only acute hospital from 2014, ever since 2005 when the decision was made to use the Southmead site in favour of moving facilities to Frenchay.

But with the £430million hospital nearing completion, pleas from worried local councillors and health campaigners are now becoming more urgent.

Thornbury and Yate MP Steve Webb has picked up the campaign and is calling on South Gloucestershire Council to subsidise a direct service to Southmead.

He said: “When I asked the NHS how people are meant to get from the Yate area to Southmead in future, their answer was to catch a bus to Bristol Parkway and another to Southmead.

“We think this is simply unacceptable. A four bus round trip to visit someone in hospital, or to go to an appointment is pretty miserable even if you only have to do it once, let alone if you are doing it on a repeated basis.”

Mr Webb added: “I cannot believe that people are going to have to do these ludicrous journeys.

“It is bad enough that we are not going to have Frenchay but if you have to visit every day it is going to be a nightmare.”

Mary Peacock, from The Ridge in Yate, has already been struggling with a difficult journey to visit her husband Roy at Southmead for the past two months.

Mrs Peacock, 74, has tried a number of different bus routes including going into Bristol to change buses, so she can see Mr Peacock, 83, who suffered a stroke earlier this year every day.

“I was having to get four different buses and in that cold weather I was freezing,” she said. “I was so cold I was shaking and couldn’t get my key in the door when I got back.

“Plus buses were late and if I had kept going I wouldn’t have been able to look after my husband when he does come home.”

Mrs Peacock, who does not drive, is now paying £350 a week on taxis to and from Southmead.

Yate town councillors are also backing the campaign.

Cllr Chris Willmore said the proposed train journey to Parkway and subsequent bus to Southmead, proposed by the NHS, would involve a 40-minute wait on some routes.

“I want to express really grave concern about South Gloucestershire Council’s approach not to make any direct provision for transport from Yate to Southmead and ask them to put in place an appropriate route.

“When the decision was made to close Frenchay we were promised a bus. Well we want our bus.”

The NHS Clinical Commissioning Group’s programme director of the South West, Ben Bennett, said at a recent council health scrutiny meeting: “Public transport is not something we can affect.”

A council spokesman said: "A joint officer transport group was set up comprising of representatives from North Bristol NHS Trust, Bristol City Council and South Gloucestershire Council to look at transport and parking issues relating to the new hospital.

"The planning agreement for the site included Section 106 funding of £1.5million towards public transport facilities over a three year period. This funding has been made available to Bristol City Council as the new hospital is located within the Bristol City boundary.

"South Gloucestershire Council recognises the concern in the Yate community about how people are going to travel to Southmead. At this stage no commercial bus operator has come forward with proposals to run a direct service from the Yate area to Southmead Hospital, therefore any link from Yate would require financial support.

"South Gloucestershire Council is working with the NHS trust and Bristol City Council to try and devise the best package of improvements using the Section 106 funding across the region, with the aim of the services being financially sustainable when that funding is exhausted."

To join the group email steve@stevewebb.org.uk