NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, together with other public sector partners, and in partnership with the voluntary sector, has launched a unique scheme to overcome transport problems faced by relatives and friends of hospital patients.
The Evening Visitor Scheme is free of charge and operates on weekdays between 6-10 pm.
The service covers the following Glasgow hospitals - Glasgow Royal Infirmary, Western Infirmary, Victoria Infirmary, Stobhill Hospital, Southern General, and Gartnavel General.
Using community transport, all Glasgow city residents are eligible, but the service will prioritise people who are older, disabled or on low incomes.
Health and Communities Minister Andy Kerr, said:"This is a great new scheme which will make getting to hospital to see loved ones much easier and safer for visitors.
"It is a great example of partnership working and the kind of thing we want to see more of to find solutions to transport issues.
"Getting transport links right is a key part of improving the patient and visitor experience in the NHS.
"It is a significant issue which NHS boards must take account of when they are delivering local health services.
Chris Drapper, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde's Transport Projects Manager, the first post of its kind in the NHS in Scotland, said: "In designing these services a critical point was to take on board community anxieties around travelling unaccompanied at night.
"This initiative will not only help family and friends of patients visiting them in hospital, but also address concerns around personal safety while travelling at night."
Cathy Donnelly (60) from Corkerhill, took part in the new service's pilot scheme as a passenger on the Pollok Community Transport bus.
She used the service to visit a friend who was a patient in the Southern General Hospital.
"The wee bus is absolutely great," said Cathy, "it saved me spending nearly £10 in taxis each trip.
"It's a lot of money to spend and the bus takes you from the front door to the hospital, if I was using public transport I would have to get two buses.
"Also there's no way I would go out at night and travel on the public transport buses.
"It can be difficult for people to visit at night if they don't have transport, and that's a shame, this is a great service."
Each of the different partners involved are keen to support the new service.
Councillor Davie McLachlan, Strathclyde Partnership for Transport Vice Chair, said:
"We're pleased to be working in partnership with the other organisations to make Glasgow's innovative hospital night visiting scheme possible.
"With SPT's experienced staff managing the booking and despatch system, I am confident the new service will prove to be a valuable addition to the public transport network."
Mr Graham Dunn, Development Officer of Community Transport Glasgow, explained: "Community Transport Glasgow is very excited to be delivering the transport provision in relation to the Hospital Visiting Service.
"This provides us with a great opportunity to develop the range of services we deliver as we continue to meet the needs and gaps within transport provision in Glasgow.
"We are delighted to be working with our key stakeholders, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Glasgow City Council and Strathclyde Partnership for Transport, to provide these much needed services to the communities of Glasgow."
Councillor Willie O'Rourke, Glasgow City Council's Executive Member, Roads and Lighting, praised the initiative.
He said: "A free visitor transport service to hospitals is great news for the people of Glasgow.
"Visiting a loved one in hospital can be stressful, but a service like this can only make everyone's life easier.
"I am delighted to be involved in this important initiative, it is a great step forward in tackling social exclusion."
Mr Drapper added: "This scheme is a clear example of how NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and its partners are looking at imaginative ways of improving transport options for our patients and their visitors.
"We are well aware of the challenges that getting to and from hospital can present to those who use our service, and finding innovative ways of tackling these issues is a key concern.
"We recognise patient transport as being an integral part of patient care."
The Booking Hotline for the Evening Visitor Service is 0845 128 4027.
Notes to Editors:
A number of partners are involved in this project - NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde are providing funding to Community Transport Glasgow (CTG) to operate the service; Glasgow City Council provides support to CTG to develop the Community Transport sector in the city; and Strathclyde Passenger Transport, being commissioned to provide the expertise to manage the booking and despatch system.
Community Transport Glasgow is a membership organisation made up of the five Community Transport Operators who work throughout Glasgow.
For further information contact 0141 201 4429.