Multi million pound health contract bid lacked transparency, campaigners claim
THE bidding process for a multi-million pound contract to transport non-emergency patients for treatment in Gloucestershire has been attacked by anti-cuts campaigners.
Ambuline, as part of Arriva Transport Solutions, will take over the running of patient transport from the South West Ambulance Service after wining a bidding war earlier this year. Around 85 staff will be transferred across to work for the new provider.
Arriva will run Patient Transport Services from December 1, two months after it was scheduled to take over the service.
The procurement process was led by Peninsula Purchasing and Supply Alliance (PPSA) on behalf of the NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) in Gloucestershire.
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But the decision to outsource the service to a company better known for running trains and buses has come under fire from campaign group 38 Degrees. It has said the deal was done "behind closed doors" and lacked transparency.
Caroline Molloy, from Gloucestershire 38 Degrees, said: "There was no public consultation nor genuine opportunity for public engagement, just discussion with a few handpicked insiders.
"Not only have our ambulances been out-sourced, but the procurement decision making itself was out-sourced to a non-accountable body, Peninsula – even though the CCG promised us it wouldn't do that. "At the very time they were being told by the overwhelming majority of Gloucestershire public that they should not tender chunks of NHS services in relation to our hospitals, they chose to do exactly that in relation to ambulances."
The five-year deal was the first major contract to be awarded by the CCG, that took on commissioning of county health services in April.
Anti-cuts campaigners have questioned the quality of service that can be provided by Arriva and claims the contract was awarded on price, rather than service quality. Arriva was pulled up by health watchdogs in Leicester when it took on a similar £33million contract there.
CQC inspectors found patients were picked up late, there was no proper plan for cleaning ambulances and some new staff started work before Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks were complete. Arriva has since assured patients it has addressed the issues and is now providing a high quality service.
In Gloucestershire, the new service will run 24 hours, seven days a week, an extension of the existing 9am to 5pm service in some areas.
Arriva will run a single access centre to provide a booking and enquiries service.
Chairman of NHS Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group Dr Helen Miller said: "We want to ensure that patients who are eligible can access the very best service which can meet their specific medical and mobility needs. We want them to experience safe, timely, clean and comfortable transport.
"There will be one organisation responsible for coordinating all non-emergency patient transport and this should help to deliver a consistent and joined up service for the individual."