GMB to hold 24 hour demo outside CCG offices

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GMB is to hold 24hrs demo outside High Weald Lewes Havens CCG offices over patient transport services.

As much as the failure of the service seemed certain, we could not have foreseen the extent to which the failure would affect patients says GMB

GMB is inviting the public to support a 24 hour demonstration calling for an immediate end to Coperforma’s on-going patient transport services fiasco in Sussex. GMB is also calling on the High Weald Lewes Havens CCG board to examine whether CCG lead and Accountable Officer Wendy Carberry is the correct person for the job due to her role in the disastrous tendering and flawed process that placed a successful patient transport service into the hands of an incapable private provider.

Since Coperforma’s takeover of services on 1st April, patients have reported long waits and delays in getting to and from appointments. GMB members have reported being pressured into taking on extra shifts and having their working rotas changed on short notice to make up for understaffing.

The demo will run for 24 hours starting at 12pm on Wednesday 25th May 2016 at the address as follows:

Outside the offices of High Weald Lewes Havens Clinical Group

36-38 Friars Walk,



Gary Palmer, GMB Regional Organiser, said “High Weald and Lewes Havens CCG have gotten this whole procurement wrong from day one. They split a successful service and then refused to recognise the warning signs when only Coperforma looked to tender for the service, while every other provider, NHS or otherwise, gave the idea a wide berth.

Clearly they did no homework into Coperforma’s background as the company had never previously been involved in contracts of a similar size of the one they tendered for.

SECAmb joined GMB in raising concerns that Coperforma’s presentations and engagement sessions clearly exposed that they were out of their depth with regard to the Sussex contract. CCG allowing them to undertake their own governance and measurements of their own performances, compliance, and therefore profitability, almost certainly sealed the failure of Sussex PTS going forward.

As much as that failure of the service seemed certain to everyone except the CCG and Coperforma, we could not have foreseen the extent to which the failure of the service would affect patients who rely on this provision to make important hospital and clinical appointments on a regular basis.

The CCGs, led by the accountable officer Wendy Carberry, have refused to meet with concerned groups, including GMB. Instead, they have blocked or avoided taking responsibility for the fiasco even seeming to provide an element protection to the incompetent management team at Coperforma. They seem to still hope that Coperforma may eventually get it right, despite the risk to Sussex patients, and in the meantime they are maintaining a fingers crossed approach to managing the situation while trying to ensure the public reputation of both the CCG and Coperforma aren’t damaged beyond repair.

We therefore call for the removal of Coperforma from the Sussex PTS contract and that High Weald Lewes Havens CCG board examine whether CCG lead and accountable officer Wendy Carberry is the correct person for the job as both are incapable of carrying out the contractual obligations expected of them within the county.

GMB will protest outside the CCG offices in Lewes on Wednesday 25th May for 24 hours to highlight the ever increasing waits for patients to travel to or from hospital appointments, to demand that the CCG set up a public meeting immediately to listen to and address the concerns of the patients, staff, volunteers and the public in Sussex and that they look to remove Coperforma from the contract with immediate effect and hand it back to NHS provider South East Coast Ambulance Service to stabilise services.”


Contact: Gary Palmer GMB Organiser 07552 165950 or GMB press office on 07970 863 411 or 07739 182691

Notes to editors

1 GMB press release dated Friday, May 6, 2016

Sussex CCG Must Act Now As Staff Continue To Leave Over Coperforma Patient Transport Service Failings

The CCGs are ultimately responsible for this on-going fiasco as Coperfoma is never going to be able to come clean and admit it can’t cope says GMB.

Bullying, a lack of breaks and enforcing additional hours are the latest tools used by Coperforma in a last ditch attempt to halt the continued failings in the delivery of patient transport services in Sussex. GMB members have reported being pressured into taking on extra shifts and having their working rotas changed at short notice to make up for serious under staffing.

The result of which is that both the staff transferred from SECAmb and Coperforma’s own temporary staff continue to leave as they realise that the company remains clueless on how to resolve issues around its joint operation centres at Eastbourne and Thruxton. Many issues have been caused by the company’s underperforming software, which can result in systems working against each other.

Members and staff continue to see communication failings and the use of personal mobile phones and pen and paper by staff is increasingly becoming the norm as staff turn away from the Coperforma ‘Watson’ service delivery model as it continues to crash several times a day, unable to keep up with demand. The problem is further exacerbated a management team who are unable to implement contingency plans when the planning and automatic dispatch system fails.

Staff constantly have to tell patients an ambulance is on its way knowing that they either won’t get through to that vehicle’s crew for hours to inform it where to go or that it will never be sent in the first place as minimal resources are directed by an automated inflexible system to the collection of patients who have often already missed their appointments or worse remain un-deployed for hours on end.

Gary Palmer, GMB Regional Organiser, says “Staffing levels are now dangerously low and often it’s only through the goodwill, professionalism and ingenuity of the experienced staff transferred from SECAmb and the willingness of temporary workers that Sussex receives any type of patient transport service at all.

How do Coperforma repay them for this commitment? Through the use of bullying and pressure to get staff to work longer, not take breaks and accept rota changes at short or no notice, to keep manning levels up and calls answered. Management often tell staff that should they choose not to stay on or work extra hours and shifts it is they who will be placing patients at risk, not Coperforma’s dogged perseverance with technology that’s clearly not up to the task being the cause of the on-going detriment that patients and hospital departments find themselves with.

Training has now become a try it and see arrangement amongst the staff with successes and failures being passed around the office by word of mouth, with the phrase fire fighting becoming used on a daily basis.

The dispatching of vehicles to collect and deliver patients, which still consistently fail to arrive on time or at all, is being further damaged by management blocking staff from allocating vital work to crews. Instead they are being used to answer patient calls to boost call taking percentages in the hope of improving their public image locally and their reports to the CCGs. As a result, patients are being left high and dry and potentially, in the case of patients with renal problems, at serious risk to their health.

The CCGs are ultimately responsible for this on-going fiasco as Coperfoma is never going to be able to come clean and admit it can’t cope. The CCG must act and act now to protect Sussex patients and services alike. Simply sitting back and waiting for some distance investigation outcome of the whole disaster in the hope that in the meantime Coperforma might fluke a service improvement to negate their initial tendering process errors is not acceptable.

I personally think that everyone should write to the CCG and their GPs to call for the service to be returned to SECAmb, even if only on a temporary basis, to try to get patients services back on track and commence a new tendering process and to encourage the previous NHS provider to make a bid for the service.”


2 GMB press release dated Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Coperforma End Consultation And Negotiation With GMB For Standing Up For Patient Safety And Protecting Members’ Terms And Conditions

We will not sit back and simply ignore this direct attack on members says GMB.

Coperforma has confirmed that they will end all private consultation and negotiation with GMB following the outsourcing of patient transport services in Sussex on 1st April 2016.

As part of a four year contract to provide patient transport services, GMB members have transferred to Coperforma from their old employer, South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb). However, unlike SECamb, Coperforma has made the decision not to recognise GMB, meaning they will no longer enter into consultation with the union.

Gary Palmer, GMB Organiser, says “On behalf of our members, GMB has raised issue after issue with Coperforma over their lack of planning, engagement and openness with staff, even when it was made clear that doing so would affect our relationship with them. It’s what we do, and it’s based on looking after our member’s rights during any TUPE transfer process, something that any professional employer looking to create a welcoming work environment, with nothing to hide, would value.

Since the transfer we have found ourselves supporting members through anger and frustration brought about by Coperforma’s failing new smartphone app and deployment system, which has left patients uncollected and staff undeployed on numerous occasions.

As a result of this support, Coperforma has chosen to retaliate by de-recognising GMB and in doing so is hopeful of preventing our members from exercising their right to be part of a trade union of their choice.

We will not sit back and simply ignore this direct attack on GMB and its membership and we will look to action a response. We will continue to campaign over the coming weeks to highlight both Coperforma’s failings as a provider of NHS services and as an employer if immediate improvements do not happen and in undertaking the fight to regain union recognition for the benefit of our members and their employees.”


3 GMB press release dated Monday, March 7, 2016

GMB Welcome Sussex Patient Transport Services Contractor U-Turn On Rights For Outsourced Workers

With this announcement, VM Langfords has opened a door to engage with staff which will see a vast wealth of healthcare professionals feeling secure in the knowledge that they will continue to be protected in work says GMB.

GMB, the union for ambulance staff, has welcomed the decision by patient transport provider VM Langfords to continue meaningful talks with GMB after staff transfer to their company from South East Coast Ambulance Service on April 1st.

VM Langfords has also confirmed that they will continue to honour all changes to Agenda for Change, the pay policy currently in place for NHS staff.

The move comes after GMB warned that a dispute was only weeks away from erupting if the right of employees to determine the union that represented them wasn’t protected and if meaningful talks with GMB were not continued. See notes to editors for copies of previous GMB press releases about Patient Transport Services.

Gary Palmer, GMB regional organiser, said “GMB acknowledges that VM Langfords has made a dramatic but positive U-turn by lifting the threat to no longer recognise GMB after Friday April 1st. Equally positive has been the news that VM Langfords will now honour all national changes to Agenda for Change terms and conditions including national pay awards.

With this announcement, the company has opened a door to engage with staff which we believe will see a vast wealth of experienced healthcare professionals feeling secure in the knowledge that they will continue to be protected in work. Through membership of the union of their choice, workers will be able to turn their attention fully to ensuring the patients and public receive the best service they can possibly deliver going forward.

Since the change of tack by VM Langfords the mood at the last two staff engagement meetings has changed considerably. Information is beginning to flow through to members and staff around pensions, locations of bases, shift patterns and more, despite the fact that the decision to continue talks is yet to be finalised.

GMB will continue to petition and campaign against any move from Coperforma that stems the flow communication companies, staff and our unions. Any move which could leave our members and their staff unprotected against unfair changes to workplace practices and procedures or attacks on their terms and conditions will not be tolerated.”


4 GMB press release dated Monday, February 29, 2016

Dispute Looms As GMB Reject Unreasonable Preconditions For Talks Set By New Contractors At Sussex Patient Transport Services

We have strongly expressed our concerns and questions as to why Coperforma and VM Langfords are refusing to take part in straight forward talks on the transfer says GMB.

GMB, the union for staff at Sussex Patient Transport Services (PTS), is one step nearer to a dispute with the new contractors after rejecting unreasonable preconditions for meaningful talks with them arising from the outsourcing of the service. See notes to editors for copies of previous GMB press releases on the outsourcing of this service.

Members are facing a transfer from their current NHS employer, South East Coast Ambulance Service, to private sector companies VM Langfords and Coperforma from 1st April. The companies have set preconditions for talks under the Transfer of Undertakings (Employee Protection) Regulations (TUPE) which GMB has rejected.

Gary Palmer, GMB Regional Organiser, said: “VM Langfords and Coperforma made clear that limited talks would be possible only with unions who were willing to provide a list of members to both employers and agree to take part in a presentation process regarding the union’s benefits in comparison to other unions.

This position is in stark contrast to Thames Ambulance’s having welcomed the benefit of working with GMB and of retaining union rights for those transferring.

We have strongly expressed our concerns and questions as to why Coperforma and VM Langfords are refusing to take part in straight forward talks on the transfer with GMB.

If they have nothing to hide in terms of employee engagement and working practices, they should have no fear in accepting transfer of PTS health care professionals’ personal right to determine membership of their personally preferred trade union.

As a result of recent meetings, GMB has been left in no doubt that we will not be the preferred choice for both VM Langfords and Coperforma, when transfer time comes.

GMB workplace representatives’ strong support in representation, on seeking sadly lacking, up to date information at the request of concerned members and staff, and in robustly requesting adherence in the protection of all members and transferring staff current and future employment rights under agenda for change, means we do not fit with these companies’ idea of how trade union partnership should look.

They clearly do not know GMB if they think we will parade ourselves or sell our members rights’ to GMB support in the hope of conforming to their vision of trade unions, it’s not something we do.

If this move to ignore talks with us continues, we will be left with no option other than to explore all legal, and if required industrial, avenues under instruction of our members to protect their right to remain within GMB and in their insistence to have the right to retain recognition in its current transferable form. The contractors should be in no doubt that GMB will not allow them to run a coach and horses through our members legal rights.”


5 GMB press release dated 19th February 2016


Failure to ensure that proposed incoming private ambulance contractors are fit and capable to provide this vital service from April 1st is unforgivable says GMB

GMB, the union for the ambulance service, has discovered that Hampshire based VM Langford’s and Essex based Thames Ambulance Group have been appointed by Coperforma to deliver Patient Transport Services in Sussex.

Coperforma were awarded the contract to provide non-emergency patients Transport Services across Sussex from 1 April 2016. The provision for Patient Transport Services in Sussex has been split between Thames Ambulance Services who will service Brighton, central Sussex and the north Sussex corridor and VM Langford who will provide patient transport services across both East and West Sussex.

All current South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb) ambulance service staff will be transferred to their new provider with 97 going to VM Langford.

GMB members are raising concerns that, with 6 weeks to go, locations of ambulance base stations have still yet to be announced.

Gary Palmer, GMB regional organiser, said “Outsourcing and sub-contracting by The Sussex Clinical Commissioners Group and Coperforma, could lead to disaster for Patient Transport Services in Sussex through the appointment of VM Langford’s and Thames Ambulance Group to deliver transport services across Sussex.

Patients and front line NHS professionals, who currently deliver a caring, responsive, first class service to the public across the county, will suffer.

Coperforma led a drawn out, secretive and badly handled search for private ambulance service providers, which resulted in nearly all of their preferred choices pulling out on consideration of what we can only presume to be a financially disappointing and unfavourable contract.

GMB has raised concerns to both the CCG and Coperforma that they have produced nothing to lessen our member’s concerns that VM Langford’s will be unable to provide the necessary base equipment and the vehicles necessary to mobilise and commence service provision on April 1st. As future employers they have yet to convince transferring staff that they are committed to NHS values and that the current agenda for improvements to terms and conditions won’t be under threat.

GMB and SECAmb had arranged a second meeting with VM Langford’s to fully layout their deployment plans. This was cancelled at their request and rearranged for the 25th February. A further two weeks potential consultation has been lost and that is not acceptable.

It’s time for the CCG to come out publicly about the concerns it has shared with GMB and SECAmb in recent meetings about VM Langford’s and their ability to deliver any sort of service for the people of Sussex together with an acknowledgement of the real fears and concerns of staff over their appointment and ability to deliver an NHS standard service.

GMB are calling for the CCG to halt the rush to force this privatisation through and to push the transfer process commencement date back by at least 3 months. It is vital that we ensure that the patients, staff, public and unions involved can be confident that patient lives, the jobs of our members and the effectiveness of the service as a whole are not put at risk. Ensuring the capability and long term stability of those involved in the contracts mobilisation is an absolute necessity.

GMB will not stand by and allow our members, together with the patients and public of Sussex to receive a substandard service and detrimental treatment off the back of inexperienced providers looking to make a fast buck.”

6 Copy of GMB Press Release dated 21 January 2016

GMB Demo And Petition On 26 Jan To Call For Halt To Privatisation And Break Up Of Sussex Ambulance Patient Transport Services

Successful bidder Coperforma intend to further sub-contract the transportation of patients to a number of smaller providers and judge their own performance says GMB

GMB, the union for the ambulance service, is organizing a protest demonstration in Brighton on 26th January outside the meeting of Clinical Commissioners Group to secure a reversal of the potentially life threatening changes to ambulance Patient Transport Services following outsourcing. See notes to editors for copy of previous GMB press release dated 11th Jan calling on Sussex CCG’s to pull back from handing £63.5 million contract for patient transport to Hampshire based private company.

The protest is to draw attention that Coperforma, the company that won the tender, intend from 1st April to further sub-contract out the transportation of patients to a number of smaller providers. They also plan to implement cuts to or to re-define eligibility criteria for the current transportation of renal patients to hospital for dialysis and to do so as soon as possible.
The details of the protest are as follows:

from 12 noon on Tuesday 26 January,
outside public meeting of Brighton & Hove Clinical Commissioners Group,
Brighthelm Centre,
North Road,
Brighton, BN1 1YD

GMB is also asking that members of the ambulance service, patients and public sign an online petition at

Gary Palmer, GMB Regional Organiser, said “ Unless reversed we will see services transfer to the winner of a cut price bidding process to deliver services across Sussex regardless of the adverse effects to both patients and public coming as a direct result of those cuts.
GMB want the public to make the joint Sussex CCG’s aware of the depth of feeling in just how poor a decision this is being made on our behalf, and by those entrusted to protect public health and NHS services and that they should be ensuring the continuation of the current professional NHS provider of the South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb) as the only safe option.

The successful bidder Coperforma intend to further sub-contract out the transportation of patients to a number of smaller providers. They are also going to be allowed, on behalf of the CCG’s, to provide the Regularity Independent Governance, Compliance and Improvement Audits on the service they deliver. For this role they have appeared to have appointed their very own joint site sister company GRCI to provide. So they will be allowed to judge themselves.

Coperforma further announced at staff engagement meetings that from the commencement on 1st April they are to implement cuts to or to re-define eligibility criteria for the current transportation of renal patients to hospital for dialysis and to do so as soon as possible.
This will mean that a significant amount of those patients, some of who will certainly suffer from complex problems, may be susceptible to cross infection if forced to use public transport or taxis at a time of most need. So they will have to turn to an already overstretched A&E service to provide safe, clean and supported transportation to hospital as patients and family both have to deal with concerns over arising emergency’s as a direct result of those cuts to the current SECAmb high standards of patient transport provision and welfare.”


7 GMB Press release dated Monday 11th January 2016

GMB Call On Sussex CCGs To Pull Back From Handing £63.5 Million Contract For Patient Transport To Hampshire Based Private Company

The current employer, SECAmb, are going to be left to do their best to try to mitigate any potential job losses of up to 200 people says GMB.

GMB, the union for workers in the health service, is calling on the joint Sussex Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) to step back from handing private provider Coperforma Ltd a new 5 year £63.5 million contract for Sussex Hospital Patient Transport Services.
The new contract to the Hampshire based company from 1st April 2016 is currently delivered by the South East Coast Ambulance NHS Trust (SECAmb).

This change of the contract away from SECAmb could potentially see up to 150 of the 200 hugely experienced, professional road staff and managers affected by this change lose their jobs.

Gary Palmer, GMB Regional Organiser, said “GMB members are dismayed and angry after meetings with senior management from Coperforma who have been unable to clarify or answer even the most basic of questions or concerns of staff worrying about patient safety and their own future in only just a few short weeks’ time.

The move is based on the CCG’s financial decision to slash NHS costs. This has come about as a result of the current providers SECAmb being unable to continue to provide and maintain the current completely professional NHS service for such a deliberately and dangerously reduced service delivery cost of around £12 million a year.

The move will see the breaking up of the current Sussex wide service provision as Coperforma look to only actually directly manage PTS control staff themselves, whilst looking to sub-contract the actual transport provision work to a number of smaller varied and as yet unnamed independent contractors.

With possibly only 50 control staff going to be offered a transfer across to the new provider, SECAmb, as the current employer, are going to be left to do their best to try to mitigate any potential job losses of up to 200 people, as the new providers wash their hands of most of the staff.

The CCG handling of this has been a complete farce and is set up to fail from the outset, being based once again on cost cutting NHS budgets and services. The consequence of this short-sighted approach being that users of PTS services in Sussex going forward will see a less professional and potentially unsafe service as a number of local providers fight to impress Coperforma in reducing transportation costs just to keep short term contracts regardless of service users diminished experiences.

The PTS GMB members who are well trained professionals are telling us that there is a potential for serious concerns for those service users affected by not having transport, meaning in some cases that life might even be at risk (e.g. Renal Dialysis, booked surgeries, blood transfusions, diagnostic appointments {MRIs-CT-Hyperbaric Chamber}, end of life conveyance, inter-facility transfers and admissions).

The risk of the knock-on effect on discharges and admissions to community hospitals and urgent care could well be compounded as NHS Trusts heavily depend on timely discharges to be able to do admissions and keep beds free, especially important when involving discharges from A&E departments.

Their panic is that these are issues which could potentially mean that we will see an increase of 999 calls to an already over-stretched ambulance service to cover these serious patient transport service failings. Notwithstanding a real fear of utilising a firm or firms with a muddy history of not scanning their staff DBS checks, poor training and health and safety and un-transparent Governance records.

It is already apparent that they and their sub-contractors are not committed to NHS values, and that current Agenda for Change terms and conditions could be under threat, as they admit they are unaffordable in context to their low winning bid.

GMB will make its position clear in that we will work closely with SECAmb in this instance to ensure that staff are treated fairly and lawfully in an upcoming transfer process to Coperforma and that their current pay, and AfC terms and conditions, and pensions etc are secure. To that end the GMB union are calling for an immediate meeting with Coperforma to discuss the contract and transfer process and in ensuring that everything is done where possible to redeploy Trust staff potentially facing redundancy as a result of this poor decision by the combined Sussex CCG’s in awarding this vital Patient Transport Service to a selection of private profiteers.”