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.

New Privatised NHS: Medical Services Ltd broke patient ambulance contract

The 5 hr wait ambulance: Picture taken by me at Hemel Hempstead Urgent Care Centre

The 5 hr wait ambulance: Picture taken by me at Hemel Hempstead Urgent Care Centre

Following my personal exposure of Medical Services Ltd appalling provision for weekend patient ambulance services, my local newspaper, the Gazette, took up the story. the experience onvolved waiting five hours for an ambulance to come and pick up my wife, Margaret, who recently had stroke, from Hemel Hempstead Urgent Care Centre.
Their report reveals that not only were the company at fault but it is clear that the people responsible for managing and overseeing the contract on behalf of the NHS were also to blame.
It is now revealed that Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group require Medical Services Ltd ( gross profit £7m a year) to collect all patients within two hours. The contract says:
“The Contractor will collect patients from clinics within 60 minutes of being requested by the Department in 90% of cases and within 120 minutes on 100% of cases.”
So this amounts to a blatant breach of contract and if as staff at Hemel Hempstead Urgent Care Centre, say they are regularly leaving patients for up to four hours, this is not an isolated case.
There are also a serious questions for the West Herts Health Trust who are supposed to manage this contract.
Were they asleep when Medical Services Ltd were providing just one ambulance for patient transport and collecting patients from Bedford, Luton, Letchworth and Hitchin hospitals. Or were Medical Services Ltd two timing the authority by using the same ambulance for contracts with other health trusts? Did they allow Medical Services Ltd to close their Watford depot at weekends so all ambulances will have to travel from Luton to pick up patients at Watford General. Great guardians of taxpayers money and patients interests, I don’t think.
Why should the public put up with shoddy providers who flout contracts and complacent NHS supervisors who don’t check up on them?
If you’ve had a bad waiting experience with a private or public ambulance taking you back from hospital you can always use the contact me point on this website or contact the Gazette series of papers to complain. Just give me the details, day, time and wait.
Or you can now go one better. Samantha Jones, the chief executive of West Herts Hospitals Trust, has promised an inquiry after the publication of this blog and would like to hear from anybody who has had a bad or good experience using the patients ambulance service from watford, St Albans and Hemel Hempstead hospitals. Her email is samantha.jones@whht.nhs.uk.

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.