A UNION has warned vital patient transport services are nearing “crisis point” after a contractor ran into financial trouble.

About 30 staff were left unpaid and without work after private ambulance firm Medi 1 went into receivership, a process similar to administration, after financial difficulties.

The company was contracted to run non-emergency patient transport services to hospitals across Sussex.

Now the GMB trade union has called on health chiefs to bring these services in-house by contracting them to the NHS-run South Central Ambulance Service.

“Medi 1 has now become the latest in a long line of failed private contractors,” said regional organiser Gary Palmer.

“As before staff and their families now have to endure the brunt of profit-driven business failures and need to find new work immediately while struggling without the money they are owed.

“The only patient transport services constant remains South Central Ambulance Service – and thank heavens for that.

“But Sussex patient transport services are moving closer towards a crisis point.”

Mr Palmer worried Medi 1 would “re-present itself to the market in another form”.

And he accused Sussex health chiefs of being “ill-informed” because they were keen to cut costs.

The GMB official cited the failures of previous Sussex contractors Coperforma, Docklands and Thames Ambulance as reasons to doubt their leadership.

And he worried South Central Ambulance Service would pull out of future contracts because of a lack of leadership in Sussex.

“Adam Doyle, the chief executive officer for the eight clinical commissioning groups in Sussex and East Surrey learns absolutely nothing every time another failure happens within the contracts private sector,” Mr Palmer said.

“The indecision of the CCGs [clinical commissioning groups] in Sussex means I wouldn’t be surprised if South Central Ambulance Service eventually has had enough.

“It wouldn’t be good for staff and our members.

“And it would be a disaster for patients who currently are seeing some of the best service levels in the history of patient transport in Sussex.”

Mr Palmer called on Sussex health chiefs to offer a five-year patient transport contract to South Central Ambulance Service.

A Sussex Clinical Commissioning Groups spokeswoman said Sussex CCGs were "currently exploring procurement options" in relation to patient transport services.

"A national review into non-emergency patient transport services is currently being led by NHS England and NHS Improvement, which we hope will provide further clarification around how best to improve patient transport services in England, within existing and planned NHS resources and to inform our commissioning intentions," she said.
"Sussex NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups are currently exploring procurement options in relation to the non-emergency patient transport service, in line with existing procurement legislation." ​