THE new chief executive of an under-pressure health trust has said it has had to fork out £40,000 to provide vehicles when the new patient transport provider failed to turn up.

Dr Adrian Bull took over at the East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust - which includes the Eastbourne District General Hospital and the Conquest at St Leonards in April.

The Argus has repeatedly highlighted the issues around Coperforma Ltd, which took over the transportation of dialysis and other non-urgent patients to Sussex hospitals from April 1.

But Dr Bull said the new service has been so bad that the hospitals have had to pay thousands to get patients to and from hospital - though they will claim the money back.

A Coperforma spokesman has claimed that service levels are improving but Dr Bull said that the problems remain.

He said: "Patient transport issues remain a major concern. They are causing significant patient dissatisfaction and pose a safety risk to many patients.

"There is no evidence of improvement. Many patients are not attending appointments and there are significant delays in discharge. Discharged patients are having to stay an additional night and in one area even an outpatient stayed overnight."

In his report to the Trust Board on Wednesday (June 8) he added: "On an internal note we have also paid approximately £40,000 on additional vehicles in April.

"Whilst we are cross charging this, that rate of expenditure across all the Trusts will exceed any cost benefits that may have been achieved in the tender.

"The matter has been escalated across the system. All providers are experiencing problems. The problem may be particularly acute in Eastbourne. Further reviews are being held with the Clinical Commissioning Group which holds the contract."

We revealed at the end of last month that only four in ten renal patients reached hospital on time for their appointments in the fourth week of the service.

Figures showed that across the first three weeks, as few as two in ten renal patients were picked up within an hour of their booked collection time.