Result! West Herts Hospitals Trust changes patient ambulance services after scandal of a 5 hour wait

West Herts acted on complaint

West Herts acted on complaint

My complaint about the appalling situation that left my wife, recovering from a stroke, waiting five hours for a privatised patient ambulance at Hemel Hempstead Urgent Care Centre to take her back to Gossoms End rehab centre in Berkhamsted has yielded results.
The West Herts Hospitals Trust, which manages the contract for Medical Services Ltd, the private company providing the ambulances, ordered an investigation into the incident and a review of the service.
The inquiry confirmed that my wife, Margaret, had in fact, waited 5 hours 15 minutes for the ambulance.
It then found the following damning facts:
The excessive delay was caused, as I expected, by the company supplying insufficient numbers of ambulances to do the job. They had only two vehicles – an ambulance and a seven seater minibus – on that Saturday afternoon and evening – to supply the entire needs of West Hertfordshire.
The company did not manage the call -indeed it appears it disappeared off their radar because they didn’t have proper management controls to check why nobody had turned up.
Neither the company nor Hemel Hemsptead Urgent Care Centre even reported the delay – which amounted to a big breach of Medical Services Ltd contract – until days after the event. Indeed there is a hint in the report they may not have bothered – if I had not publicly raised it in this blog and with the Berkhamsted and Tring Gazette.
The report is honest enough to admit that both Medical Services and the West Herts Health Trust have let my wife down. West Herts admit ” it could have been avoided with closer controls and proactive management of the activity levels.” The investigators also found “no examples of good practice ” in managing this contract.
The good news is that West Herts and Medical Services Ltd have pinpointed deficiencies in the service and are taking action to put things right.
The main changes are:
Medical Services will contract some patient ambulance services to a taxi firm where people are mobile enough to get in a taxi.This will mean that people like my wife who couldn’t get out of her wheelchair to get in a taxi will get priority ambulance treatment.
Medical services Ltd will review ambulance rosters to put more on at the weekend and employ an additional member of staff at Watford.
The senior management at Medical Services Ltd will take direct charge for a trial period of their control room and take action if anybody is waiting for more than an hour.
West Herts are also strengthening their management procedures and using the information to change the procurement of new contracts. This includes financial penalties for breach of contract – all patients not to wait for more than two hours is written into current contract.
There are two lessons to be learned from this. Far too many people are happy just to grumble rather than complain if the NHS service is not up to scratch. this shows if you do complain you can get something done.
Second, West Herts Hospitals Trust are to be congratulated for taking the complaint on the chin and doing something about it. They have also been honest and open in releasing the report to me without having to go to the trouble of putting in a Freedom of Information request.
The proof of the pudding will now be whether the services does improve – but I see Medical Services Ltd contract is up for renewal next May. They had better step up to the plate.

7 thoughts on “Result! West Herts Hospitals Trust changes patient ambulance services after scandal of a 5 hour wait

  1. Taxi drivers to replace paramedics ?
    More heart attacks in taxis stuck in traffic with nobody giving way,
    Why should they if it’s not an ambulance ?

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    • Dave,
      That might be true for a MOTP. A MOTP with a blog and Twitter might still get a long way. I actually alerted the chief Executive, Sam Jones by Twitter and I get the impression she wants to respond to patients complaints and get something done when things go wrong.

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  2. Hi there
    i am pleased to see that you received a quick and positive response from MSL. I must point out i have no involvement with MSL but looking in at them, they are actually a good company and your experience is perhaps an exception which you have identified and the management have now taken a responsibility for.
    In general terms I have no issue with the use of private ambulance services contracting into the NEW. In fact there are 2 companies who are leading the way in contract provision for 999 services and urgent/non urgent transport work.
    This is almost certainly the way forwards when it comes to commissioning services and provided that the CQC requirements are met, the various legislative requirements are met and effective management controls are in place, it’s a great idea.
    Chris

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    • Lets hope your life doesn’t depend on them one day then.
      You may have confidence in your neoliberalism – many of us don’t, and moreover see no reason why our taxes should be going to make fat profits to provide inferior services to private firms – many of whom see to have links with current and ex MPs / Lords.

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      • I agree with you over the drift of your argument-I don’t have much faith. But felt it fair at least to commend an authority when it investigates and tries to put a complaint right.

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