Staff at Sussex patient transport sub-contractor facing redundancy

Staff at a sub-contractor for Sussex's patient transport service are at risk of redundancy, a trade union has warned.

South Central Ambulance Service will take over next April
South Central Ambulance Service will take over next April

Doctors finally took the decision to hand the contract back to an NHS trust, just seven months after it was taken over by Coperforma.

Two of the private company’s sub-contractors, VM Langfords and Docklands Medical Services, collapsed earlier this year and a third Thames Ambulance Service is now warning that it will have to make staff cuts.

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A spokesman for the GMB union said it understands 84 jobs are at risk of redundancy as Thames Ambulance Service claims it has not been paid several invoices by Coperforma.

Gary Palmer, GMB regional organiser, said: “Once again it will be ambulance staff, GMB members and patients who now have to suffer if as expected Thames carry out their intention and notice to quit the failed Coperforma contract.”

He added: “We will be speaking to the CCG as soon as possible to seek assurances that they will intervene and make payments to Thames Ambulance to ensure that they can have the confidence to continue working for the benefits of Sussex patients in the knowledge that invoices will be paid in a timely fashion.

“Or, if Thames remove themselves from provision as they threaten to do, they will move to further protect these ambulance professionals similarly to Docklands staff who found themselves without work.”

A spokesman for Coperforma said: “Whilst it is true to say that Thames Ambulance Service have alleged that we are indebted to them, this is disputed where we believe that we have been overcharged under the terms of our contract with them.

“Our solicitors are in correspondence with Thames’ lawyers about this matter, and in the circumstances there is nothing we can appropriately add by way of comment, save that we hope that the dispute will shortly be resolved.

“We can only repeat that although we endeavour to keep suppliers paid promptly, we cannot, of course make payments to any supplier where services are not provided.”

High Weald Lewes Havens Clinical Commissioning Group awarded the contract to Coperforma on behalf of the seven CCGs covering Sussex, with the private company taking over the service from South East Coast Ambulance Service at the start of April.

But the first few weeks saw patients complain of numerous incidents of crews either showing up late or not turning up at all.

While performance improved the CCG has said that these are not consistent across the whole of Sussex, with some patients continuing to experience problems.

South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, which is due to take over the contract, currently provides PTS services across Hampshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, and Oxfordshire.

The transfer will be phased over the next few months, with SCAS taking complete responsibility from April 2017.

Last week, James Underhay, deputy chief executive of SCAS, said: “SCAS is under no illusion that taking on delivery of this service will be challenging and that we need to stabilise the service before we can begin to make significant improvements to it.

“We fully recognise that this is a difficult period for the patients who rely on the service and the staff who provide it.

“I want to reassure Sussex patients that we at SCAS are fully committed to providing the service that they expect and deserve from the NHS, and to reassure the staff who will be joining us that we will provide them with the support and tools that they need to deliver a great service.”

Thames Ambulance Service have been approached for comment but so far have not responded.

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