Their website claims they are the nation’s leader in the providing integrated patient transport and is bulging with testimonials from a grateful public.Medical Services Ltd is not a name instantly recognised by the general 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.