Failure to pay drivers working in Sussex’s patient transport service is ‘unacceptable’, Eastbourne’s MP has said.
When Coperforma took over the contract back in April patients complained of crews either turning up late or now showing up at all, but performance has improved recently.
However this week several leading sub-contractors working for the company claimed they have been ‘unable to operate effectively’ due to the inadequate system Coperforma are using, criticised them for not paying invoices in a timely manner, and called on doctors to intervene ‘before the service collapses’.
Coperforma rebutted the allegations, claiming that all payments to sub-contractors were up-to-date and the company was in a strong financial position.
But Eastbourne MP Caroline Ansell said she had spoken to a driver this week who had not been paid and could run the risk of losing her home.
She added: “He is desperately upset over how patients are being treated, and the lack of funding and sheer confusion that is prevailing with Coperforma in charge.
“Another driver confirmed to me that he, and a number of his colleagues, have had to pay for the petrol needed to drive their ambulances directly from their own pockets, and having to top up their work phones with their own cash. The situation is shambolic.
“Sussex MPs have formally written to the CCG, urging them to take a more direct role. They have assured us that drivers’ former NHS terms and conditions will be honoured and that there are contingency plans in place.
“It’s fair to say the situation is simply not good enough and I will continue to press for the service we need.”
A spokesman for Coperforma said this week: “Coperforma is a financially sound company which is managing contractors’ payments according to the principles of best business practice.
“All contractual payments are up to date but regrettably invoices are having to be disputed but as the problems are rectified the company commits to settling the agreed balances without any further delay.
“In the meantime the Coperforma network of CQC-regulated providers is fully operative and patients can be assured that there will be no interruption to their ambulance service.”
However the sub-contractors said that if all outstanding invoices were not paid in full within ten days they would have to start legal action against Coperforma, with an immediate reduction in services.
The letter concluded: “We are disgusted at the position Coperforma have put us all in and the devastating effect this will have on patients but we see no resolution to the situation without CCG intervention.”
But Coperforma countered the claims, stating that all contractual payments to the end of July were up-to-date, and invoices amounting to £360,115 are currently being disputed due to details not reconciling with their data records, and this figure representing just nine per cent of total payments.
This process is taking place because Coperforma is legally responsible as it is essentially managing taxpayers’ money and the company says it wants to act fairly.
The spokesman added: “The company is in a sound financial position to continue to deliver the county’s patient transport service which has now recovered from the initial problems and is operating at an average 94 per cent of the key performance indicators; these KPIs were set by the commissioners at the time the contract was awarded and were at a considerably higher level than patients enjoyed under the previous provider.”
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