The GMB union has called on MPs to hold an official inquiry into health commissioners after bailiffs seized five ambulances as a private contractor went bust.
The union wants the House of Commons Health Committee to investigate the problems besetting the patient transport service (PTS) in an area that includes Brighton and Hove.
It called for an inquiry today (Friday 17 June) after bailiffs seized five ambulances this week when VM Langfords went into administration.
The union said: “We will be seeking assurances from all concerned that both the affected staff and the long-suffering patients in Sussex will be looked after should a new provider not be found before creditors call time on VM Langfords says GMB.
“Creditors sent bailiffs to sites in Worthing, Bognor Regis and Alton on Wednesday (15 June), recovering five vehicles as payment for PTS provider VM Langfords’ debts.
“VM Langfords appointed insolvency administrator Peter Hall yesterday to protect them from having further assets reclaimed and to allow service provision to continue in West Sussex in the immediate future.
“This is the latest in a long line of failures following private provider Coperforma taking over responsibility for Sussex patient transport services from SECAmb (South East Coast Ambulance Service) on (Friday) 1 April.
“Sussex CCGs have received severe criticism from MPs and local residents as hundreds of patients suffering from severe illnesses miss vital NHS appointments with some patients reporting waits of more than five hours.”
GMB regional organiser Gary Palmer said: “Once again Sussex CCGs are putting patients’ lives in danger as the fall-out from their disastrous break up of county’s PTS service and the vastly undervalued tendering process takes yet another ludicrous turn.
“Only three months into an already fiasco-ridden contract and it seems VM Langfords will now go bust.
“The NHS services provided to meet the needs of patients and other local people are about as far off the mark in Sussex as they could be.
“Handing over valued NHS services to the likes of Coperforma and Langfords without checking providers’ ability to deliver those valued services professionally and efficiently is a travesty.
“These providers care only about getting value for money from a diminishing NHS budget regardless of outcomes for patients.
“GMB will continue to work hard to find a professional provider who will commit to working with us, as the union for health workers, to take up and deliver the kind of service patients and staff alike deserve.
“We will be seeking assurances from all concerned that both the affected staff who find their jobs potentially under threat only 10 weeks into a new contract and the long-suffering patients in Sussex will be looked after should a new provider not be found before creditors call time on Langfords.
“GMB are calling on the Health Select Committee to urgently investigate this utterly avoidable crisis and examine why CCGs ignored all warnings from GMB and other professional bodies about the recklessness of outsourcing this service.
“Heads should roll for this dangerous and deeply troubling scandal.”