‘Significant improvement’ has been made to the patient transport service across Sussex but ‘some areas do still need further work’.
That is according to the NHS commissioners that handed the contract for non-emergency transport to South Centre Ambulance Service (SCAS) around a year ago, following its disastrous spell under private provider Coperforma.
A joint statement from Sussex’s Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) said: “Significant improvements have been made to the patient transport service and we are working closely with SCAS to ensure this continues.
“A recent review by Healthwatch has shown that patient satisfaction with the services has improved to 85 per cent across Sussex. “We are aware there are still some areas which need further work and we will continue to work with SCAS to ensure our patients are getting the best possible service.”
Sussex CCGs’ comments come in response to criticism over a damning report on Thames Ambulance Service, one of several private organisations outsourced to help deliver the Sussex service alongside SCAS.
Thames mainly runs its Sussex services in the East from its Uckfield base, one of its 16 sites nationwide.
Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspectors, in a report published on February 20, found a number of areas where serious improvement is is needed around its country-wide PTS delivery, including:
n A ‘poor culture around incident reporting, investigating and learning’
n A patient death which the CQC had not been informed about and which a ‘service lead could not locate the incident report or explain where they were in terms of the investigation of this’
n ‘The service did not have a clinical quality dashboard or similar to provide an overall picture of safety and quality at any given time’
n ‘There were no audits for deep cleaning or infection prevention control’.
As a result, the GMB union is calling on the Sussex CCGs to do more to support SCAS to reduce the number of private PTS providers, and to remove all those that are failing.
Gary Palmer, GMB regional organiser, said: “This report is damning. We must ask why the combined clinical commissioners of Sussex,x have not done more to ensure that a program of support for SCAS to reduce the number of private providers has not been more pro-actively promoted within Sussex.
“We must start backing the NHS Ambulance service to bring more of the provisions back in-house.
“When Coperforma ruined the PTS service here in Sussex, the clinical commissioners made the right move to kick them off the contract and to seek help from NHS professionals South Central Ambulance Service.
“SCAS answered the CCG call and the very much needed, but rushed transfer of services back to them, was a very good day for patients, the public and of course the staff left high and dry by a procession of rip off profiteers.”
SCAS said it has ‘no overall concerns with Thames’ performance and any challenges are addressed directly through the organisation in order to improve the service and implement any lessons learnt’.
Reflecting on its performance since taking over the PTS Sussex contract in April 2017, bosses admitted to a difficult winter.
Stacey Warren, area manager, commercial services said: “SCAS has recently made internal changes, which means that the team who are now controlling the dispatching of vehicles know and understand the geographical area and this has been a positive move for SCAS PTS in Sussex.
“The largest challenge is that on average in January 79 per cent of discharges or transfers were made on the day; giving SCAS no notice of the booking.
“The high amount of on the day bookings compromises the pre-planned discharges/transfers, as there is a higher demand to achieve packages of care.
“Saturday remains a challenge with resourcing and forecasting the unpredicted demand however progress is being made.
“With the systems available to us, and with almost a full year’s worth of our own data, we can more accurately start predicting this demand.”
She added: “SCAS has appointed a renal manager, and positive steps have been made with regards to a more detailed look at patient locations and destinations.
“Work has gone on to ensure that appointment times are correct, and that patients have dedicated drivers.
“SCAS is working on how to improve discharge and transfer (key performance indicators) KPIs and we have strong key stakeholder relationships which helps in our improving the service as we go into year two of the contract.”