GMB call for parliamentary inquiry into Coperforma following new report

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GMB, the union for health and care workers, is calling for a parliamentary inquiry and the return of money paid out to Coperforma for their failings to deliver patient transport services in Sussex, in response to a recent report in the local Brighton newspaper The Argus. [See notes to editors for The Argus report and previous Coperforma press release from GMB]

Gary Palmer GMB Regional Organiser said: “The paper reports many of the details around Coperforma being paid significantly above and beyond the yearly contract value they were to receive for delivering a successful PTS service. When staff, patients and the public are all aware of the utter failure over the actual 7 months Coperforma held the contract, this payment can only be seen as an absolute disgrace.

“High Weald Lewes Havens Clinical Commissioning Group (CCGs), who led the commissioning of the service on behalf of, all the combined Sussex CCGs have clarified that they paid Coperforma not only the whole yearly contract value, but an additional 2.1 million bringing the total to £16.2 million.

“The CCGs claim that the additional payments cover the need for extra transport capacity to meet the demands at acute hospital sites, despite it being entirely Coperforma’s fault entirely that those discharges weren’t met. This was as a result of  their ill-fated app which spectacularly failed throughout the 7 months service.

“The CCG also claim the additional  payments were to ensure the safe transfer of the Patient Transport Service to the new NHS provider, South Central Ambulance Service, in April 2017 when Coperforma had been deemed unfit to provide the service.

“GMB are absolutely appalled by the obscene size of the financial reward which has found its way to CEO Michael Clayton, Directors and owners of the now wound up company Coperforma for its part in the 7-month long debacle which was Patient Transport Services in Sussex.

“This prize pay-out was I’m sure looked upon by ‘Non-Performa’ as a great bit of business, despite the un-mitigating disaster that both theirs and their cowboy contractor’s involvement created for everyone else. It has left them, we are sure, with healthy bank balances and would justify them renaming PTS here in Sussex as the ‘Profit Transport Service.’

“GMB and its PTS members warned the CCG’s even before Coperforma took over the service, that Coperforma had made it clear that they weren’t interested in NHS values.

“This only confirmed our members serious concerns for those service users affected by not having transport if Coperforma tried to run the service with a UBER style taxi app and a profit making approach. For example Renal Dialysis, booked surgeries, blood transfusions, diagnostic appointments (MRIs-CT-Hyperbaric Chamber), end of life conveyance, inter-facility transfers and admissions, could all be missed and they were.

“We also told them that there would be a knock-on effect on discharges and admissions to community hospitals and urgent care could well be impacted as NHS Trusts heavily depend on timely discharges to be able to do admissions.

“It’s now clear that ignoring the PTS professionals who have always delivered the service, and offered their advice for free at the time, has cost the public the best part of 2.1 million in add-ons, in addition to more money being wasted in gifting a good behaviour payment to them for handing over information to allow a smooth transfer to South Central Ambulance service.

“This mustn’t be allowed to be swept under the carpet, where recovering public money can be done it must be done, and I’m afraid the High Weald and Lewes Haven CCG and especially the accountable officer, Wendy Carberry responsible for this fiasco must still come clean publically about their own failings in the whole disastrous and costly procurement process.

“We also demand confirmation that Sussex CCG’s are not looking at a similar procurement disaster in the future for the county’s PTS services and that South Central NHS Ambulance Service which is where the service belongs will be both encouraged and supported in retaining the service going forward long term.

“Considering the resulting £16.2 million of public money given away it would be the least Wendy Carberry could do for PTS patients and public of Sussex.”

Peter Kyle, MP for Hove said: “When Parliament returns I will be asking questions of the health minister. When ambulance drivers and their union were expressing concerns about the contract I need to know why NHS bosses didn’t see problems ahead. We need a full post mortem.”

Contact: Gary Palmer 07552 165 950 or Michelle Gordon 07866 369 259 GMB Press Office 07970 114 762

Notes to Editors:

1] The Argus – Outrage as firm handed ‘good behaviour’ payment over failing service (8 Jan 2018)

Outrage as firm handed ‘good behaviour’ payment over failing service

THE private ambulance firm which provided such abysmal service it was stripped of its four-year contract after seven months was paid more than it should have earned for a year of satisfactory performance, The Argus can reveal.

Howls of outrage have greeted the news that Coperforma, contracted to provide non-emergency transport to vulnerable patients across Sussex, was paid £16.2 million by the NHS.

From April 2016 Coperforma Ltd provided an “uber” type smartphone app to direct drivers to patients, and subcontracted work to a dozen different private ambulance companies.

Its tenure included tens of thousands of missed patient journeys, patients being left waiting for hours, patients missing appointments, ambulances being sent to the homes of patients who had died, ambulances operating without a licence, drivers going for months without pay, and misleading statements being made in Parliament.

The contract was worth around £15.75 million per year.

But Coperforma performed so poorly that after seven months the NHS pulled the plug.

There was then a “phased handover” back to NHS ambulance providers, with Coperforma providing some patient journeys for a further three months. Its contract formally ended after 12 months.

In addition to the £16.2 million paid to Coperforma, the NHS paid close to £1 million in extra payments to help its former staff, while they worked for Coperforma subcontractors who failed to pay salaries or pensions.

Today The Argus can also reveal that NHS managers failed to anticipate demand accurately when drawing up the contract.

And they even paid a special additional payment to Coperforma, as part of the £16.2 million, to ensure the smooth transfer of service back into NHS hands. Union bosses have slammed it as a “good behaviour” payment.

MPs and unions have reacted with fury to the news, with Parliamentary questions now scheduled for Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Hove MP Peter Kyle implied senior NHS managers could be forced from their well-paid positions over the disaster. He said: “At a time of crisis in the NHS, we now know that NHS managers have been pouring taxpayers’ money straight down the drain.

“This is enormous investment for no return whatsoever. In fact, all most patients got for these millions was misery, uncertainty and the indignity of waiting countless hours for a terrible service.

“Taxpayers and patients alike need answers. And they need to know that there are consequences for this gross malpractice. The people who wasted these millions must pay a price.”

Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas turned her fire on the Health Secretary himself. She said: “That Coperforma were paid this much for providing so little is truly outrageous, and this scandal goes right to the top.

“We are now in 2018 and the private company at the heart of this scandal has gone bust, whilst pocketing millions at the tax payers’ expense for providing a dangerous and failed service.

“What have Ministers been doing to get justice for the patients and staff who were maltreated and put at risk by this appalling shambles?

“What have they done to get taxpayers’ money back?

“The contract fell apart so quickly that those responsible for it must be held to account. But the buck cannot stop there – this is too serious – this outrage is Jeremy Hunt’s responsibility and he should be held accountable.”

Both MPs will ask questions in Parliament, GMB union regional organiser Gary Palmer told The Argus: “The GMB are absolutely appalled by the obscene size of the financial reward which has found its way to CEO Michael Clayton and directors and owners of Coperforma.”

He said before the contract began, GMB and its ambulance-driver members had warned NHS chiefs that dialysis treatments, surgeries, blood transfusions, diagnostic appointments and discharges and admissions would all be put at risk by the Coperforma business model.

He said: “It’s now clear that ignoring the professionals who delivered the service and offered their advice for free has cost the public millions and millions of pounds.

“On top of that, more money was wasted in a ‘good behaviour’ payment for handing over information to allow a smooth transfer to South Central Ambulance service – which should have happened anyway.”

He insisted High Weald Lewes and Havens Clinical Commissioning Group – which was the lead among the seven Sussex CCGs who commissioned the service – open their books to the public and undertake a full inquiry.

A HWLH CCG spokesman said: “The total payment to Coperforma was £16.2m and, of this, £14.1m related to patient transport services and the demand originally anticipated as part of the contract.

“The additional £2.1m investment was spent on extra transport capacity to meet the demands at acute hospital sites to facilitate patient discharges during periods of high demand.

“This reflects the overall trend of increases in demand on patient services across the region and nationally.

“It also includes investment that ensured the safe transfer of the Patient Transport Service to the new provider last year.”

He said the CCG’s priority had always been patient safety, and that recommendations from reviews undertaken at the time “have been taken forward”.

Wendy Carberry, who earns a six-figure salary as chief executive of HWLH GGC, has been unavailable for comment on the several occasions The Argus has requested interviews over the last week.

2] Lessons to be learned by NHS after Coperforma dissolution (20 Dec 2017)