NHS bosses will ease a controversial regime restricting the number of people receiving free transport to hospital appointments in the coming weeks, it has emerged.

A review of imposing national eligibility criteria for the Patient Transport Service (PTS) across North Yorkshire had highlighted that the issues of “distance and rurality” needed addressing, a spokesman for four clinical commissioning groups (CCG) said.

John Darley, speaking on behalf of Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby, Scarborough and Ryedale, Harrogate and Rural District and Vale of York CCGs, added it had become “clear and obvious” that eye injection patients should not be expected to make their own way for treatment.

The announcement, made to district councillors in Richmondshire, where  the “refreshed” PTS regime has sparked an outcry, was met with scepticism by some members and given a cautious welcome by others.

Papers circulated to members of the council’s scrutiny committee had detailed five cases of elderly, seriously ill and eye condition patients being refused the PTS and also featured concerns about the pressures being added to a charity due to the regime.

A coordinator for community support charity Leyburn Good Neighbours wrote: “We have recently noticed a surge in demand for transport to both Northallerton Friarage and Darlington Memorial hospitals for medical appointments. In all cases the clients reported that they had been told they were ineligible for PTS and that they should contact us instead.”

Mr Darley said a meeting between Yorkshire Ambulance Service, which runs the criteria tests and provides the PTS, and the CCGs earlier this week had examined views aired at North Yorkshire County Council’s Scrutiny of Health Committee and the findings of patients’ appeals against being refused PTS.

He revealed all 20 patients who had appealed against being refused PTS in Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby had been found to be eligible for the service.

Mr Darley said: “There were some common themes - distance and rurality, particularly in Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby, particularly for frail elderly patients.

“That was clearly something we needed to look at. The second thing that was clear and obvious was people, often the elderly, going for eye injections, but not eligible for inbound transport because they have a car and can drive, but once they’ve had the injection they can’t drive safely home, so it becomes a bit of a nonsense for patients.

“I want to build into the eligibility check something that recognises distance and complexity of travel and transport to hospital.”