‘Don’t expect overnight turnaround’ warns new patient transport boss

Coperforma protest by the GMB at  Brighton SUS-161228-164950001
Coperforma protest by the GMB at Brighton SUS-161228-164950001
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The new provider of Sussex’s patient transport service has warned not to expect an ‘overnight turnaround’ when it takes over next month.

South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SCAS) is due to take over the contract providing non-emergency transport for eligible patients to and from hospital from private company Coperforma from the start of April.

The firm took over in April last year, but the service was beset with problems, with patients complaining of crews either turning up late or not showing up at all, and sub-contractors going out of business.

Coperforma bosses agreed to step down from the contract in late 2016 with a phased transfer to SCAS, which began at the start of March.

Ex-staff from one of the former sub-contractors Docklands Medical Services have already been taken on, while a number of Coperforma staff are expected to be transferred to the ambulance trust next month when the handover is completed.

Call centres at Eastbourne and Durrington are due to be retained, according to an update provided to members of the West Sussex Health and Adult Social Care Committee last Wednesday (March 8).

Paul Stevens, director of commercial services for South Central Ambulance Service, said: “We are not coming into this as an overnight turnaround. It’s going to take a little while to get under the skin of some of the issues that have gone on, but we are not coming in blind.”

He explained to the committee he ‘can’t sit here and say we are going to have adequate staffing as we will not know until April 1 when we see how many Coperforma staff turn up’.

However they would have contingency plans in place to cover any immediate staff shortages.

The ambulance service, which covers Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire, and Oxfordshire, also provides patient transport services in the Thames Valley, and is also due to take over Surrey’s PTS in April.

Maninder Singh Dulku, programme director for the patient transport service at High Weald Lewes Havens Clinical Commissioning Group, explained that neither the managed service provider model nor Coperforma’s capacity to run the contract had been ‘tested properly’.

Transition arrangements were ‘not robust’, call centres were not ready, and the online booking system for NHS staff ‘should have been quicker’.

However the key performance indicators set for Coperforma were ‘unrealistic’, and doctors had engaged PTS specialists to draw up KPIs for the incoming ambulance trust.

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