AN ambulance boss has admitted the first two months of running a patient transport service for Sussex has been “challenging”.

South Central Ambulance NHS Trust (SCAS) took over the non-emergency service in April from private firm Coperforma.

Coperforma experienced months of delays, problems with technology and issues with subcontractors after being awarded the contract in April last year.

The service had previously been run by South East Coast Ambulance.

Thousands of patients found themselves missing important appointments such as dialysis and cancer treatment because of the problems with Coperforma.

The firm eventually handed the contract back in November and clinical commissioning groups (CGC) in Sussex appointed SCAS instead.

The trust had inherited a lot of problems when it took over and director of commercial services Paul Stevens said there had been challenges during the trust’s first two and a half months in charge.

He said: “Our performance is not quite how we would like it but we are getting there and we are always looking to see how we can make things better.

“The whole team has been fantastic and have been really working hard to get on and turn things around.

“When there have been issues, patients have said they are very pleased with how quickly the team is responding and dealing with them.”

The trust will be providing an update for the county’s CCGs once it has completed its first three months and validated its figures.

Healthwatch groups across Sussex have also held a survey into how the patient transport service is now operating in the county.

The report into the survey is due to be published when the findings have been discussed with the CCGs and the ambulance trusts.

However early indications show people spoken to had positive comments to make about the quality of the vehicles and staff but waiting times and reliability remain an issue.

One patient who responded to the survey said: “I’ve got on a public bus (after four hours of tiring dialysis), rather than wait a longer time for the transport as I need to lie down and rest before I start work again in the evening.”

The decision to grant the contract to the privately-owned Coperforma was widely criticised by unions and campaign groups.