No to Sussex ambulance outsourcing

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GMB have warned that Sussex clinical commissioning groups are taking huge risks in the outsourcing of patients transport services.

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.”

Gary Palmer GMB Organiser 07552165950, Charles Harrity, GMB Senior Organiser on 07977518042 or GMB press office 07921 289880 or 07974 251 823


1 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.”




2 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.”