Job losses at a sub-contractor working on Sussex’s patient transport service have been announced.
Since private company Coperforma took over the contract from South East Coast Ambulance Service in April, patients have complained about numerous incidents of crews being late or not turning up at all.
While performance has improved recently, one of the company’s sub-contractors VM Langfords went into administration earlier this year, forcing Coperforma to step in to guarantee jobs, pay, and conditions.
Now Docklands Medical Services (DMS), which took on some of the former Langfords employees, said it would be informing some of its staff that the company will be ‘terminating their employment’.
In a letter to staff, Christopher Arnall, chief executive officer at DMS, said: “I have no choice as my company finances dictate that I act quickly and decisively in order to secure the stability of the company and maintain a solvent and stable company going forward in order to provide our valuable service to the patients and maintain stable secure jobs for employees who remain with the business.”
He added: “When former Langford’s employees joined DMS I gave an undertaking to these employees that all such staff would remain on ‘the same terms and conditions that they were previously on’.
“At this time I was hoping to attract additional business/work into DMS in order to be able to finance this undertaking. Again sadly this has not happened.
“Having now had the time to review the finances of my business, my work load and also my resourcing requirements I can advise that unfortunately I am no longer in a position to be able to sustain the current headcount or the previously mentioned terms and conditions.
“Over the coming days I will be meeting with employees to discuss this situation in more detail and unfortunately I will need to advise some of our colleagues that I will be terminating their employment.”
He explained that any former Langfords employees who stayed with the company would be offered DMS’ standard terms and conditions.
Last week the GMB union, which represents staff at Docklands, called on Coperforma to be stripped of its contract, and is due to hold a strike on Monday September 5.
Gary Palmer, GMB organiser, said: “No more chances, no more waiting until the dust hopefully settles, the time has come to remove Coperfoma and all those that would put profit before patients and staff.”
A spokesman for Coperforma explained that after ‘early teething problems’ the PTS was now ‘working well’, and the contract dispute between DMS and its employees would not affect the service ‘in any way’.
Working with the CCG, Coperforma had put in place a plan to mobilise extra vehicles from other providers to fill any shortfall should the need arise during the dispute.
The spokesman said that all contractual payments from Coperforma to DMS, totalling £525,000, were up to date, and justified claims from previous employees at VM Langfords would be paid, but since many of these went back several months it would take the company some time to verify them all.