Patient transport is turning into fiasco
Leicester and Nottingham now have a private ambulance service which provides patient transport for the NHS, run by Arriva Transport.
In its defence, this is a new exercise for the NHS in Leicester and Notts and perhaps the public should have expected some teething problems.
But to say that from July 1, the transfer has gone smoothly must be an understatement, at least in Leicester.
The contract to provide this service was awarded to Arriva in December and, after seven months, surely the public would expect that this provider would hit the floor running.
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After all, this is a business that deals with the transport of people.
This has not been the case.
Articles in the Mercury ("Transport of patients to hospitals is now chaotic", July 13) have highlighted the concerns of the public and the comments of an NHS associate director "that the situation is being monitored by the hour" is not the best start for this new enterprise.
Questions of the primary care trust's (PCT) decision must be asked.
If the funding for this private ambulance service has, to some extent or wholly, come from the NHS, then as taxpayers we should demand the best, not the cheapest, even in the present financial climate.
The latest outrageous story is of the premium rate telephone numbers that the public must ring to book their hospital transport.
Does this also apply to care homes, GP surgeries, hospitals and charitable agencies?
Dare one suggest Arriva is in the business to make money?
For the PCTs to say they will review the situation and monitor the performance is not good enough, especially since their admission that premium rate telephone lines were not mentioned during negotiations.
Action must be taken now to prevent what can only be described as exploitation of vulnerable people.
It is reassuring to read Zuffar Haq is pressing for prompt action to resolve the situation.
I understand Ambuline Ltd is supplying the resources. From its website, this company has 30 years' experience in providing patient transport.
Why then would it advertise for ambulance care assistants on July 4 and again on July 11? Was it not aware of the required staffing levels? Of the demand?
Was the contract too big an undertaking even by Arriva's standards? Did not Arriva inherit what must have been a fully trained workforce from East Midlands Ambulance Service (Emas) ? Has this publicity affected staff moral? (The Mercury article on July 13 would suggest so).
Perhaps the fault lies with the PCTs which granted this contract.
It's quite obvious the reason Emas lost the contract was simply cost. It could be argued Emas could and should have performed more efficiently.
If we accept public sector spending must be reduced and then Government funding is restricted to such an extent that a particular part of the public sector becomes inefficient, the only alternative appears to be privatisation, so the reduction of that part of the public sector bill is solved.
Any suggestion that the NHS could take back any part of patient transport is a non-starter.
The Emas fleet would by now have been disposed of, Emas would have to recruit and possibly train staff and all ambulance stations in Leicestershire are under threat of closure.
The financing by the NHS of patient transport services would be contrary to Government objectives.
Also, the PCTs could not scrap this contract – the commercial, financial and public image fallout would be overwhelmingly embarrassing.
The contract is for five years. Arriva will have time to improve. I am sure everyone will be watching.
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