NHS drivers join private company
More than 100 NHS drivers who take patients to and from hospital appointments have been given jobs with a private company.
They plan to mark the start of the new era by throwing a party in Syston tomorrow.
The drivers, who were employed by East Midlands Ambulance Service (Emas), will transfer to Arriva Transport Solutions on July 1.
However, an estimated 30 support staff face redundancy after Emas failed to win the contract to provide the patient transport service in Leicestershire and Rutland.
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It lost out to Arriva, which has since bought Ambuline, a private ambulance company.
Arriva will provide the service over the next five years, in a contract worth £31.1 million.
Emergency response ambulances will still be run by Emas.
Arriva has bought 130 vehicles. The fleet will use satellite navigation systems to help cut travelling times and patients will receive text reminders about appointments.
An online booking system is being installed which can be used by NHS receptionists and hospital staff. Some patients will be able to make their own telephone bookings.
Transport will be provided for people who cannot get to and from appointments any other way.
Alison Hassell, NHS associate director for acute contracts in Leicestershire and Rutland, said: "Patient transport provides a valuable service to those who need support in attending appointments, such as those attending for day surgery which means they cannot drive home afterwards.
"We have a responsibility to make sure it is cost-effective, efficient and that we meet the needs of patients."
She said the cost of the contract included an increase in running costs to ensure a better service.
Arriva has written to volunteer drivers for Emas, inviting them to apply for jobs.
Lynda Healey, who is moving to the new company, said: "It will be sad in some ways but our patients will still have familiar faces as we will still be driving the vehicles."
Arriva will also provide patient transport in Nottinghamshire and Bassetlaw.
Once the new contracts begin, East Midlands Ambulance service will auction off any of the vehicles it owns and return those which are leased.