A failed private ambulance contractor owes local NHS organisations £7.6 million, according to a report by the company’s liquidators.
Coperforma went bust after losing the £60 million four-year contract that it had been awarded on behalf of clinical commissioning groups in Sussex, including Brighton and Hove CCG.
It was supposed to provide the patient transport service for non-emergency patients but quickly earned a dismal reputation for late and missed appointments and leaving patients stranded.
Its problems were made worse because it insisted on using a mobile phone app for bookings yet too often signal failures meant that the system didn’t work.
Coperforma sub-contracted work to other private ambulance providers, two of which went bust, blaming Coperforma for not paying them.
And two other ambulance firms were owed six-figure sums for work that they had done, according to a “statement of affairs” previously lodged with Companies House.
Coperforma claimed that it was owed £2.5 million by local health chiefs and almost £500,000 VAT relief on the bad debt.
But the liquidators, from RSM Restructuring, found little prospect of justifying the £2.5 million claim although they will try obtain the VAT relief on the “bad debt”.
They found just over £4,000 in Coperforma’s bank account.
The business went bust in late 2016 owing more than £11 million to unsecured creditors, including staff.
The specialist health publication HSJ (Health Service Journal) quoted local CCGs as saying: “The Sussex CCGs are actively pursuing all options to maximise recovery for the NHS of costs incurred as a result of the failure of the patient transport service contract.
“In particular, the CCGs are pursuing legal recovery against an associated party of Coperforma which provided a parent company guarantee. The CCG is currently unable to publicly give more details for legal reasons.”
HSJ said that Companies House listed Guernsey-based Seabourn Ltd as a “person with significant control” in Coperforma.
And it suggested that financial experts are investigating whether money was transferred out of Coperforma before it went bust.
The publication said: “Coperforma took over the Sussex PTS (patient transport service) contract in April 2016, having been the only bidder for a contract which split the transport side of the service from the scheduling of ambulances.
“It struggled to deliver the service, with many patients arriving late for appointments or being left in hospital.
“Two of its subcontractors went into administration and the CCG had to pay some staff wages to make sure the service kept going.
“Following growing complaints from commissioners and patients and a critical Care Quality Commission report, the company abandoned the £16 million-a-year contract in November 2016.
“It was handed to South Central Ambulance Service Foundation Trust.”