People had already contacted me from Manchester and Devon to highlight private bidders for services which included bin collectors, bus companies, car parking and foreign firms queuing up across England to take over NHS patient ambulance services.
For example Arriva, the bus company, has landed a lucrative contract in Greater Manchester to take over ferrying disabled people, cancer and renal patients, despite a petition signed by 14,000 people opposing the move and opposition from Unison and two Labour MPs.
This is also following the company’s new subsidiary Ambuline being criticised by the Care Quality Commissionfor poor staff training, staff shortages and failing to keep records of whether vehicles were properly cleaned to avoid infection risks in a contract they run in Leicestershire. The CGC made a second inspection and now says the service is satisfactory.
In Manchester there are already complaints about Arriva not having enough ambulances and using taxis to transport disabled patients.
In South Devon and parts of Cornwall and Somerset ambulance services are to be taken over by the successor company to National Car Parks – NSL – who beat a refuse collection company and the NHS provided services.
Danish company,Falke which runs private ambulances and fire services, has bought a 45 per cent stake in Medical Services, with the obvious intention of buying up more services. It had already talked and entertained Brian Coleman, the former Tory chairman of the London fire Brigade, to discuss buying up London’s entire fire service.See my earlier blog.
The most damning stuff has come from the Care Quality Commission’s website which reveals a worrying picture. It shows that small private ambulance services in Dagenham, Wigan, Dorset, Wiltshire, Buckinghamshire, Bicester and Peterborough have been required to make improvements after their first inspections to bring them up to scratch, particularly over management and record keeping and staff standards.
You can find the inspections on the care quality commission website. Type in ambulances under services on home page.The roll call of companies found wanting by CQC inspections is too large for this blog but here are some of the firms.
International Medical Assistance, Tamworth; Patients at risk of harm from poor service which may now be under new management..
Medical Services Ltd Warrington : Failed to have proper records such as references on staff recruitment
APMS services, Peterborough. Staff inadequately trained to care for patients
Henry Ward, Buckingham. Had no checks on staff including whether they had a criminal record.
AFG Birmingham Recruitment staff bad, some had no interviews.Ambulance breakdown not reported.
BN Gibson, Newark. Staff not trained properly to manage medicines.
AST, Surbiton Staff references not obtained.
Remote Medical Service, Manchester poor recruitment policy and no training to deal with abuse of patients.
Caring for You PTS -Benfleet,Essex Staff started work without waiting for criminal record clearance.
Collingwood Medical Services, Salisbury, Staff not trained to safeguard patients from abuse.
Paramedico Correspondence Event Cover, West Wickham, Kent. Staff not fully trained, recruitment procedures not followed including independent criminal record check,
Medical Response Services, Wigan. Newly recruited staff not properly checked.
Medicar Ltd,Clacton, Essex. Staff references not obtained, no management supervision recorded, no complaints procedure.
First Aid Medical Services Ltd. Sheffield Owner only just aware that staff had to have criminal record checks, no knowledge of rules protecting patients from abuse.
Ambu Kare, Peterborough. No guidance on how to transport people with intravenous drips,patients belongings and medical needs not signed for, inaccurate info given to patients about complaints.
Plymouth Central Ambulance Service Ltd. Never applied for criminal records or medical checks on staff, one person didn’t have a satisfactory report from Criminal record Bureau.
East of England Ambulance Service. Failed to respond in time in Norfolk and Suffolk, particularly bad in responding to stroke patients in that area.
NHS Ambulance Trust London :Hit by equipment and staff shortages posing moderate risk to patients.
More worryingly it shows that the CQC has a backlog of inspections and has not looked at some of the big new privatised services, including Medical Services Ltd operation in Birmingham and Arriva’s new operation in Nottingham.
The overall picture is completely unsatisfactory given the big expansion in privatisation. What we could see is a dumbing down of standards, companies relying on out of date training provided earlier by the NHS, and no proper checks on who is being employed to look after vulnerable patients. The latter is regarded as a ” minor” by the CQC but I wonder whether patients would like to be looked after by people with criminal records.
The CQC – which has an appalling record of missing abuse in care homes- does not seem to have a real handle on this. They also don’t seem to want to seek patients views on privatised services – but do check up on those run by the NHS. Some double standards here and I wonder if they have the resources to do a proper job of inspecting the 856 services provided by companies and the NHS.