No to outsourcing Sussex NHS patient transport

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GMB call on Sussex CCGS to pull back from handing £63.5 million contract for patient transport to Hampshire based private company.

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, 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.”