The independent health watchdog for Brighton and Hove has highlighted failings by the non-emergency ambulance contractor Coperforma in a critical report published today (Tuesday 20 December).
Healthwatch Brighton and Hove said: “A report examining the experiences of Sussex dialysis patients using the Patient Transport Service provided by Coperforma reinforces the decision to terminate its contract early.”
The report, prepared by Healthwatch Brighton and Hove, “highlighted a litany of failures and is being used by local clinical commissioning groups to ensure that the lessons learnt from the ill-fated contract are not lost during the managed transition to the new service provider, South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust”.
Healthwatch Brighton and Hove said: “The damning report is the result of in-depth interviews with 60 renal patients being treated in Brighton, who spoke out candidly about their own experiences of using the Patient Transport Service provided by Coperforma.
“The report shows
• 56 per cent of patients interviewed reported suffering anxiety and stress as a result of failures in transport services
• 14 per cent experienced longer treatment days as a result of failures in transport services
• 8 per cent reported their treatment sessions had been shortened as a result of failures in transport services
“The report describes
• Unreliable transport – although the service improved over time, it still regularly failed patients
• Two to four-hour waits for transport that sometimes just failed to turn up
• Drivers who did not know the local area and were inappropriately trained and equipped
“Healthwatch Brighton and Hove, the local health and care consumer watchdog, interviewed in depth 60 dialysis patients being treated at the Royal Sussex County Hospital’s Renal Unit.
“These patients are among the most vulnerable, sick and unwell users of patient transport. Their treatment is life sustaining and without it they would not survive.
“Patients have asked Healthwatch to call for
• A full and public-facing review of how this service was commissioned and procured in the first place
• A full and public-facing explanation of the costs involved in correcting the failure of this service, including commissioner and service provider costs
• Assurance that lessons will be learnt and that the service will improve under its transition from Coperforma to South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust and, eventually, the re-commissioned service
• “the fundamental need for transparency and accountability directly to the patient”
Healthwatch Brighton and Hove’s chief executive David Liley said: “We have been given assurances that the lessons of this disastrous contract will be learned.
“However, we agree with patients who have called for complete transparency in revealing the weaknesses around the original commissioning process that led to an ill-equipped organisation being appointed to deliver such a vital service in the first place.
“The failure has not only adversely impacted on some of the most vulnerable patients, it has created collateral financial damage to the public purse.
“Patients we have spoken to are calling for an open inquiry into how much NHS money has been diverted into rescuing the failed service.
“Healthwatch Brighton and Hove will continue to monitor the transition to the new service as well as pressing for the answers to the questions posed by the concerned patients who have been let down by this contract failure.”