AN EMERGENCY payment of £650,000 made by the NHS to prevent drivers employed by a private sub-contractor from losing their homes will never be repaid, hospital bosses anticipate.

The payment was made last year, by all seven Sussex clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), to 70 drivers employed by Docklands Medical Services, a sub-contractor of Coperforma.

Coperforma ran the non-emergency patient transport service in the county in 2016, but was stripped of its four-year contract after seven months following disastrous service and a string of Argus exposés.

The drivers had been NHS employees until the service changed hands, and some had not been paid for months when the NHS stepped in, in September 2016.

The Sussex CCGs made an “ex-gratia” payment which was administered to drivers via the GMB union.

Initially, in a public meeting, Coperforma chief executive Michal Clayton had promised to pay the Docklands drivers but after another week passed with no pay cheque the NHS stepped in just as ambulance drivers faced the threat of losing their homes.

The NHS was praised by unions, drivers and the public for making the payment, which it was not legally obligated to do.

Hospital bosses said at the time the NHS would seek to recoup the money from Coperforma, but acknowledged it might take months.

However, Docklands ceased operating last year, and last week as reported in The Argus yesterday, Coperforma was served with a compulsory strike-off notice at Companies House.

In the light of the impending dissolution of Coperforma, the NHS confirmed to The Argus the £650,000 was still outstanding.

The Argus understands there is no realistic prospect of it ever being paid.

GMB union organiser Gary Palmer praised the NHS and said: “The public have the right to be assured that everything is being done to bring those responsible for the debacle to account.”

Yesterday, Coperforma’s email systems seemed to be down and calls to its offices went unanswered.