The New Privatised NHS : Wait five hours for a patient transport ambulance

Discreet logo of Medical Services on" NHS " ambulance. Pic taken by myself

Discreet logo of Medical Services on” NHS ” ambulance. Pic taken by myself

Medical Services Ltd is not a name instantly recognised by the general public. Their website claims they are the nation’s leader in the providing integrated patient transport and is bulging with testimonials from a grateful public.
The Anglo- Danish company (Falck a Danish private fire and ambulance company has just paid for a 45 per cent stake and put a director on the board) claims to be Britain’s biggest private ambulance provider, operating in London,Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and North West England.
It is well placed to make a lot of money as the NHS is progressively privatised,having according to its latest company accounts,a turnover of £29m, gross profits of £7m, and operating profits of £577,000.
However its PR appeal does not live up to reality. I am in the position of caring for my wife Margaret, who suffered a stroke while we were on holiday.
As previous posts on this site show, she received amazing treatment from the NHS when it happened on the Isles of Scilly and is receiving very good loving care and physio at Gossoms End rehab unit in Berkhamsted.
At the moment she can’t stand up or walk unaided and can only travel in ambulances.
Last weekend she had to get an X-ray – after toppling over – to make sure she had not broken her wrist. She received a speedy transit to Hemel Hempstead urgent care unit in an NHS staffed ambulance and was seen, X rayed,and sorted by the doctor’s co-operative who run the centre.
But then things went wrong. We were told we had to wait two hours. Two hours became three and then four. We pressed staff at the centre to find out whether this ambulance would ever turn up. Finally nearly five hours later it did, the driver saying it had only heard about the job half an hour ago when he started work on the night shift
Checking with staff I discovered that the ” nation’s leader in integrated patient transport ” is regularly leaving vulnerable disabled people for four hours before it picks them up.They said the Luton centre was rude to NHS staff and was fairly callous about patients having to wait in distress.
Later I discovered that Medical Services Ltd had just ONE patient transport ambulance on duty on Saturday evening covering the whole of Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire from Letchworth to Watford and Dunstable to Bedford. They have a depot in Watford, with ambulances there, but they close it at weekends. No wonder it took five hours.
Next day I penned a pretty angry e-mail to one Joe Sheehan, managing director of Medical Services ( salary £120,000 last year – a 20 per cent rise). I suspect it caused him a bit of indigestion over Sunday lunch at his Kent home but I will credit him that he did respond to me -including sending me his mobile phone number.
Also to his credit he investigated it, admitted it happened and apologised for a ” sub standard service”.
He has also promised short-term action to remedy some of my complaints by rostering extra staff at the weekend so people won’t wait so long and raise the issue with the NHS commissioners who contracted him to do the work.
I have also sought an explanation from the East of England Ambulance Trust. They pointed out, see their comment on this blog, that they don’t commissioned his company. But they have got in touch with the Herts Valley Clinical Commissioning Group who are now contacting Medical Services Ltd about the delay. I hope to find out when they let contracts for patient transport whether they specify standards of service or staffing cover. They could have a share of the blame if they don’t.
I suspect however most people would never have thought of even finding out who owned the ambulance that came to pick them up – they would have assumed as a member of the public did when I was photographing the ambulance – that it is the NHS.
This is why I am told NHS staff at hospitals, urgent care centres, and the front line drivers ( this one was courtesy himself) bear the brunt of public anger for shoddy services while I fear the management of these private companies just collect the money and never have to face the public or be hauled to account.
This managing director – to be fair to him – seems to have smelt the coffee. He had better. The public deserve better.

11 thoughts on “The New Privatised NHS : Wait five hours for a patient transport ambulance

  1. Pingback: Alternative News Network – The New Privatised NHS : Wait five hours for a patient transport ambulance

  2. This is abolutely horrendous and makes me wonder what were the service levels actually required by the Ambulance Trust in its Commissioning Agreement and are they ever checked? The Audit Commission produced a really good guide prior to its demise on what it saw as the essentrial elements of a good Patient Transport Service. I wonder what happened to that? The link to it is:-

    Click to access 2653.pdf

    Well worth a look at!


    • Our ambulance Trust lost thePTS contract in Devon, having bid for it. Winning bids came from a car parking company and a waste disposal company. Seriously. Just bear in mind that it’s not necessarily the ambulance Trust who have commissioned the service

      I’m really sorry about yours and especially your wife’s experience David. Sadly, for an ‘efficient’ service, costs have to be cut in order for the company to make a profit., A financial profit. Nothing whatsoever to do with patient care which is allegedly the driving force behind this monstrous, undemocratic privatisation of our NHS.


  3. Don’t get me started on Ambulances, especially Private Ambulances. (read non-professional). If you want an insight into over 20 years in the London Ambulance Service, please look at my blog, and select ‘Ambulance stories’ from the categories. Regards, Pete.


  4. I work as a nurse in a renal unit. Our transport service has been put out to Arriva, who have broken every promise and target set for them.

    They frequently have to use private taxi firms to drop off and collect patients’, some of whom are highly vulnerable. We have had numerous incidents involving untrained staff upsetting or endangering the safety of patients.

    Punctuality and communication are terrible, often two ambulances arrive for one patient, sometimes none do.

    Frontline staff have been promised more support and better systems which have failed to materialise as yet.

    All these issues have a knock on effect upon clinical care as my patients’ are often stressed and tired out by the rigmarole of using this service.

    The service has declined since it was privatised and it makes my skin crawl to think that shareholders in Arriva are making a profit out of it.


  5. Hi David

    We’ve picked up your blog after one of your readers tweeted us twice about the commissioning of PTS vehicles in your area.

    The East of England Ambulance Service doesn’t commission PTS services, that’s up to other NHS trusts to do – we have our own PTS team and so we bid to be the provider for commissioners. We don’t have contracts in Hertfordshire and so unfortunately you incorrectly , but understandably, assumed we might be involved.

    We have flagged up your article with Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group and we have been told it is in contact with Medical Services over the problems. To hopefully save you some time, I have asked the CCG to contact you directly with more detail. We have also raised the issue internally about the fact you haven’t yet had a response from us about your initial contact which you mention in the post.

    Many thanks, and we hope your wife is recovering well.

    East of England Ambulance Service Trust


  6. My friend had to wait all day for ambulance to turn up at a care home where he he had stayed for a week to take him back home. The home had to arrange taxi and bill the ambulance service for it as it was their fault. My friend was deeply upset. Every time the home called the service to inquire where they were they said they were on their way. Needles to say the ambulance never turned up at all.
    The ambulances do not have more than one space for wheelchair users inside so now they have to pick one up from the day centre and make several trips to get the ones on their list. This takes longer and makes the clients day longer and more expensive for NHS finances.
    When it was run by the NHS it had many wheelchair spaces in the ambulance and so back then they could all go together on one run.
    Now the ambulances r always late as they are booked at unrealistic times between each pick ups which is why they leave clients waiting for longer amounts of time and this is becoming very distressing for them, that’s if they turn up at all.
    This service has become very neglectful and even the drivers are far from happy as they get into trouble if they don’t stick to their unrealistic times schedule.
    As with all systems within this governments care of the vulnerable people in this country, it’s in a mess and we are suffering. Add to that and all the welfare cuts a lot of vulnerable people feel less than human less cared for and feel they just want to give up and just want to hide away and b left alone.
    These are bad times for the disabled, their carers, who work bloody hard and who save this country millions for the care they give. Not that this is even recognised by any of the governments. They get just £55 weekly for their 24hr care.
    The sick and the poor and the unemployed that do want to find work but find that there just isn’t any jobs out there are also suffering thru these bad times. This explains why the death toll has rocketed recently and the higher suicide rate.
    The lack of decent ambulance care is just the tip of the welfare neglectful system.


  7. Pingback: Result! West Herts Hospitals Trust changes patient ambulance services after scandal of a 5 hour wait | David Hencke

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