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.

Revealed: The damning reports on privatised patients ambulance services ( and some public ones as well)

 Medical Services Ltd on" NHS " ambulance.They passed the Care Quality Care Commission inspection for Hertfordshire,but many others didn't Pic taken by myself

Medical Services Ltd on” NHS ” ambulance. They passed Care Quality Care Commission inspection, but many others didn’t Pic taken by myself

Following my appalling experience of a five hour wait for a privatised ambulance from Medical Services Ltd to pick my stroke victim wife in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire I decided to look at the national picture for England. The company has passed an inspection by the Care Quality Commission- which regulates and inspects all NHS services-though the inspectors report admitted it never talked to patients.
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.

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

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.