ALLEGATIONS of ambulances operating illegally are so serious they need to be investigated, the department of health said last night.

A government spokesman said our exclusive news that an ambulance company picking up patients for non emergency appointments may not have had a licence should be looked at by the industry regulator, the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

The non-emergency ambulance service run by Coperforma was plunged into fresh controversy yesterday when The Argus exclusively revealed one company subcontracted to transport patients across Sussex may not even have a licence as legally required.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) - which regulates health services - could not confirm whether Docklands Medical Services Ltd (DMS) were in breach of the law.

Meanwhile Wendy Carberry, chief officer of the High Weald Lewes Havens Clinical Commissioning Group which awarded Coperforma its £63.5 million contract, failed to answer questions over the shambles.

For two days the Argus asked for two days to interview Ms Carberry but was told she was not available. Yesterday this newspaper also asked to speak to her deputy, or anyone in a senior position in her absence but the CCG refused and no explanation was given. A spokesman instead reiterated it was Coperforma’s responsibility to check licences of its subcontractors.

This was also despite Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas calling on the NHS commissioners to check credentials themselves.

She branded the news shocking while Hove MP Peter Kyle said “No-one can preside over this mess and seriously expect to remain in post."

Both called on health secretary Jeremy Hunt to step in personally to sort out the problems but, when asked, the department of health could not confirm if he will.

Instead a spokesman said: “The allegation made against Docklands Medical Services Ltd is very serious and we expect CQC to look into it.”

DMS was subcontracted by Coperforma to provide the ambulances and drivers.

Neither Coperforma or the High Weald Lewes Havens Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) would accept responsibility for checking their credentials.

Chris Arnall, who runs DMS, previously told The Argus he believed the company’s documentation was in order.