Transport service 'must do better'
A company which has a £31.3 million contract to ferry patients to and from hospital appointments has been told to improve its service.
The order came after Government health watchdog the Care Quality Commission (CQC) found Ambuline often picked up patients late, did not have a proper plan in place for cleaning ambulances and allowed new staff to start work before Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks were complete.
Inspectors, who spent two days talking to staff and patients in September, said in a report: "People using the service told us they were regularly late for hospital appointments.
"One person who used the service told us, 'we've tried to complain about being picked up late but they don't want to know'."
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Inspectors said that, although company bosses assured them all staff were CRB checked before beginning work, they "did not find this to be the case".
There was also concern at the amount and quality of staff training.
One member of staff told inspectors: "I don't feel the new starter process is adequate. We would get people who were good at their job if they got the proper training."
The CQC team was also concerned there did not appear to be "effective systems in place to reduce the risk and spread of infection" and said Ambuline "could not provide evidence of any cleaning regimes in place".
Inspectors also found a lack of auditing to monitor the service being given to patients and said patients had told them the vehicles used by Ambuline were "not big enough for three people to sit in the back".
The inspectors did, however, see staff treating patients with dignity and respect and using "good moving and handling practices".
Ambuline has been given until tomorrow to inform the CQC about its plans for improvement.
Inspectors will then check that those improvements have taken place.
Ambuline Ltd is part of Arriva Transport Solutions, which has a five-year contract worth £31.3 million to transport patients in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland. It took over the service on July 1 from East Midlands Ambulance Service.
Brian Drury, programme director for Ambuline in this region, said: "We welcome the CQC inspection. It provides us with an independent perspective on the service we provide and areas in which we can improve the patient experience.
"The inspection did not find any areas where enforceable action was required.
"There were five areas of operations that the CQC highlighted as having a possible minor to moderate affect.
"Action plans have been put in place to address these areas of concern, some of which have already been delivered, such as the better recording of the deep cleaning of vehicles which was taking place."
Mr Drury said the company provided 8,500 journeys per week and received about 30 complaints per week.
Zuffar Haq, of the Leicester Mercury Patients' Panel, said: "Action needs to be taken swiftly and, if not, action taken to withdraw the contract from Arriva."