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Union fears over transfer of patient transport service in Norfolk to private firm

PUBLISHED: 06:30 21 June 2014

East of England Ambulance Service

 will lose the Norfolk Patient Transport Service contract on October 1.

East of England Ambulance Service will lose the Norfolk Patient Transport Service contract on October 1.

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2011

Fears have been raised that vulnerable patients may miss vital appointments when a private firm takes over the running of a non-emergency transport service in Norfolk.

The East of England Ambulance Service received a blow earlier this year after NHS commissioners in Norfolk decided to award a Patient Transport Services (PTS) contract to ERS Medical.

The private company takes over the service on October 1, which will be responsible for transporting eligible patients to and from hospital and treatment centres.

However, concerns have been raised by union officials after some patients were left waiting hours for transport, with some missing appointments for cancer treatment and dialysis, after ERS took over the PTS contract in Essex on May 1.

Officials from Unison said they feared the same thing could happen in Norfolk later this year, which is a bigger contract than the one being run in Mid Essex.

Fraer Stevenson, Unison branch secretary for the East of England Ambulance Service, said Mid Essex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) had admitted there had been a spike in complaints and safety concerns, since ERS Medical started running the transport service, which have yet to be resolved. She added that they were “extremely worried” about the future Norfolk service.

“Stakeholders in Mid Essex have reported patients waiting hours to be taken home, or arriving too late for their appointments. Many of these patients are extremely vulnerable and undergoing cancer treatment, or regular dialysis; it is very important that commissioners fully consider the implications of their decisions on patients, before deciding to go with a cheaper, private provider.”

“The East of England Ambulance trust has been running a good quality service for patient transport services for many years, in both Mid Essex and Norfolk, with high levels of patient satisfaction. The decision to award the Norfolk contract to the same private provider that has consistently failed in Mid Essex, does raise a number of questions about the CCGs putting cost ahead of patient safety.”

“It is very disappointing to hear that the vulnerable patients that rely on the service are being let down so badly, and we will be looking to the commissioners to take urgent action over this situation,” she said.

The East of England Ambulance Service has provided the Norfolk PTS service for the last eight years, which employs 120 staff. About 115,000 PTS journeys were undertaken in 2013/14 across Norfolk.

However, Jon Bryson, chairman of South Norfolk CCG, said ERS Medical was an experienced organisation which runs NHS transport services across the UK and that eligible patients “will continue to receive a high quality, free transport service” from October 1.

No one was available from ERS yesterday. However, managing director Brendan Fatchett previously said: “We’re excited about providing this new and improved service for the local community and will be using new technology, a fleet of all new vehicles and the highest standards of staff training to ensure we deliver outstanding levels of patient care.”

What are your experiences of PTS in Norfolk? Email


  • Sad day Im afraid.....the poor patients will suffer - as usual - just to save a few quid. ERS will fail Im sure - patients will miss vital appointments which will cost lives. MPs will shrug shoulders and wring hands and say how awful it is and how things will be looked at etc etc etc....blah blah blah......usual rubbish... Fact is nobody cares about our NHS unless it affects them......last one kindly switch off the light.....

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    Sunday, June 22, 2014

  • N&G, by private car I mean one owned and driven by a volunteer driver. Whether ERS will take on volunteer drivers and whether drivers would work for them is currently an unknown. It's telling that you are the only regular contributor to these columns that has taken interest in a topic that isn't about the incinerator or NCC's failures.

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    Sunday, June 22, 2014

  • @Sugarbeet - not sure from your post if you are for or against privatising bits of the NHS. You start by saying that most people prefer travelling in private cars to ambulances, and then advertise a website that is anti privatising provision of NHS services. I am horrified at the thought of privatising the NHS, but believe me, it will happen. New Labour started it and the Conservatives are continuing. They are even privatising vital pathology services, and a German company called Synlab has just taken over an NHS lab in the Manchester area. There's all sorts of dodgy things like this going on - its the start of a very slippery slope!

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    Norfolk and Good

    Saturday, June 21, 2014

  • The article doesn't say whether the 120 PTS staff includes the volunteer drivers who use their own cars or how many of the 115000 journeys are carried by them. No one currently knows whether ERS will be using volunteer drivers. Most patients I've spoken with prefer travelling by private car to ambulance as the cars are more comfortable and usually get to their destination quicker and more directly. Using private contractors for PTS is just one of the many steps toward privatising the NHS, laid out in the 2012 Health and Social Care act. If you're interested in what else is happening to your NHS I suggest you take a look at the patients4nhs website.

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    Saturday, June 21, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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