THE new providers of a patient transport service received hundreds of calls more than it expected when it took over.

A report to the West Sussex health and adult social care committee, which meets on Friday, outlines what happened over the first weeks and how South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) coped with demand.

The trust took over the contract for the service, which takes patients to and from their homes to hospital and clinic appointments across Sussex, from private firm Coperforma in April.

Coperforma had experienced numerous problems and disruption since taking on the contract in April 2016 and eventually pulled out by mutual agreement with the county’s clinical commissioning groups (CCG).

The report, drawn up by lead High Weald Lewes Havens CCG, which led on the negotiations said overall the response from patients and staff was positive but there had been an unexpectedly higher demand than planned at the start.

It said: “The biggest issue facing the service was call centre volumes.

“It was initially receiving on average more than 500 calls a day when it would expect 200 per day for a contract of this size.

“Although this number has reduced to about 300 per day, the levels are still high.

“To address this issue SCAS and the Sussex CCGs are working together to increase the number of bookings made by health professionals online.

“The CCGs are sharing data with trusts where phone bookings are high and SCAS will be undertaking targeted training with these trusts to support their staff.”

SCAS has reported that to date it is dealing with a relatively low number of formal complaints raised by patients.

The report said: “Given the scale of this Sussex service and the number of formal complaints that were raised in the first few months of the contract with Coperforma in 2016, this number is low.

“However SCAS and the CCGs are taking seriously each and every one raised.”

SCAS has now established contact centres and vehicle bases for its operations in East and West Sussex.

Staff who previously worked for ambulance firms Coperforma and Docklands have also transferred to the trust.

The report said: “Sussex CCGs are pleased to report the excellent support of patient representatives throughout and beyond the transition process.

“The CCGs have engaged patients through a monthly patient forum meeting with representation from SCAS and this continues to meet.

“There is also patient representation on the programme board.

“Going forward SCAS will be establishing their own patient forums for Sussex to ensure that the views of users can be captured to further improve service delivery.”

Sussex’s three Healthwatch groups published a report into their investigation into the service earlier this month.

Findings showed 75 per cent of patients talked to were satisfied with the quality of the service they received.

However concerns were raised about difficulties in booking appointments.