More than 180 jobs are at risk after a contract for patient transport in Sussex was handed to a private provider.
South East Coast Ambulance Services NHS Foundation Trust (SECAmb) previously provided patient transport services in Sussex – moving patients to and from NHS-funded treatment at acute hospitals and community care.
However, Sussex Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) have awarded the four year contract, worth £50m, to Coperforma Ltd, starting in April 2016.
SECAmb said the changes mean the 190 road staff and managers’ roles are ‘potentially at risk’.
A spokeswoman for Sussex CCGs said: “In March 2014 SECAmb informed CCGs that it did not wish to continue operating Patient Transport services following the expiry of its contract under the existing terms.
“In response to this, the Sussex CCGs carried out an open and transparent procurement process to identify a new provider from April 2016; as a result of this a four year contract was been awarded to Coperforma Ltd. SECAmb did not bid to provide the service.”
Coperforma will provide the service through its own patient booking hub and will use transport providers to deliver the service – which the CCGs said may or may not include SECAmb.
The CCGs said the budget for the new service has not been reduced adding the process is ‘not a cost-cutting’ exercise.
A spokeswoman added: “We recognise and appreciate the hard work and dedication of staff who have worked to deliver the current service and acknowledge this has been an uncertain time.”
“We are continuing to work closely with staff and the new provider to make necessary arrangements for the transfer of staff to either Coperforma or one of its transport providers.”
The CCGs said the terms, conditions and pension rights for the staff transferring to their new employers will be protected under TUPE regulations – with no anticipated redundancies.
SECAmb stated the contract to provide the service did not allow the ambulance trust to be both the service provider and the transport provider – meaning it was unable to tender a bid to be MSP.
A spokesman for SECAMB said: “To date, we have not had clear confirmation about the TUPE status of the 190 Patient Transport Services staff affected.
“We are continuing discussions with Coperforma and its partners but need to recognise that the contract means that it is not clear whether TUPE applies to these staff, meaning that their roles are potentially at risk.”
The ambulance trust said but recognises it is a ‘difficult and anxious time’ for staff.
A spokesman for SECAmb said: “We are extremely proud of the quality of the PTS service provided by our staff in Sussex, over many years and hope to be able to work with the new MSP to provide some of the transport capability, under the new contract.”
The GMB is arguing the changes could see up to 150 ‘hugely experienced, professional road staff and managers’ lose their jobs.
Gary Palmer, GMB regional organiser, said members are ‘dismayed and angry’ after meetings from Coperforma.
A spokesman for Coperforma said: “Coperforma is an experienced Patient Transport provider and we are looking forward to delivering an excellent service for Sussex patients and clinicians from April.
“We are currently mobilising and have already met with many of the staff who are affected by the transfer of service to Coperforma, following SECAmb’s decision in 2014 to withdraw.
“These staff will have the opportunity to transfer to Coperforma, or one of our transport partners, for delivery of the new service. We have also had ongoing discussions with SECAmb management, since last summer, about the opportunity for them to continue working as a transport partner, and to continue to serve Sussex.
Michael Clayton, Coperforma’s CEO said, “We are pleased with the meetings we have had so far with many of the staff who will be moving to Coperforma and its partners and are looking forward to continuing to work with these experienced, local people in order to provide familiar faces for Sussex patients and clinicians going forward.”
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