Coperforma was accused of ‘incompetence’ and told its patient transport service was ‘chaotic’ by county councillors this week.
Since the private company took over the contract from South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb) back in April patients have complained about numerous incidents of crews either not turning up or showing up late.
Bosses at Coperforma and doctors from Clinical Commissioning Groups across Sussex updated members of West Sussex County Council’s Health and Adult Social Care Committee (HASC) on the situation at a meeting on Thursday (June 30).
Edward Belsey, a Mid Sussex district councillor on HASC, said: “I’m absolutely flabbergasted by what seems to be incompetence on both sides. Coperforma, and it appears the CCG, have done themselves no favours.”
He asked who would be paying for the changes to put the service right.
Michael Clayton, chief executive officer at Coperforma, explained that they would be funding the changes and improvements and had planned for this since the start of the contract.
High Weald Lewes Havens CCG is the lead commissioner for the patient transport service in Sussex.
But Geraldine Hoban, accountable officer at the Horsham and Mid Sussex CCG, presented the update to HASC, and in it she explained that Coperforma was now at 92 per cent, which was ‘nearly where we should be’.
She said: “We absolutely recognise the implementation was not good, the quality of the service was not what we would have wanted it to be and not what patients had the right to expect.”
Before the discussion on Coperforma, the committee had been receiving an update on improvements at SECAmb.
James Walsh (LDem, Littlehampton East), vice-chairman of the committee, said ‘this tale of woe is even worse than the SECAmb one’, as patients using the service had been subjected to problems ‘time and time again’.
He explained that only 20 per cent of targets were met in the first week, which he felt showed Coperforma was ‘grossly understaffed from day one’.
Dr Walsh added: “It was abysmal. The targets were not even scratched.”
Other councillors raised the situation where one of Coperforma’s sub-contractors VM Langfords had gone into receivership and had a number of its ambulances seized by bailiffs.
Peter Evans (Con, East Preston and Ferring) said: “I worry about what sort of organisation allows its commissioners to miss basic contractual failings.”
Alan Beasley, chief finance officer of the High Weald Lewes Havens CCG, said that both themselves and Coperforma had undertaken due diligence of VM Langfords, and the circumstances of them going into receivership were ‘complicated and relatively unique’.
Ms Hoban pointed out that when SECAmb held the contract it used private ambulances as well.
Peter Griffiths (Con, Hurstpierpoint and Bolney) added: “The business model you have purchased is chaotic and not fit for purpose.”
Sally Smith, director of delivery at the High Weald Lewes Havens CCG, said there were some failings with the previous service as SECAmb was not meeting the intended key performance indicators, with some issues around the timeliness.
Mr Clayton said that the VM Langfords’ situation had been challenging, but they had made sure staff were paid through their partners, a total commitment of £140,000.
He said the geographical area’s local nuisances were being masked by the overall percentages, especially true in places such as Chichester, and they were working through the improvement plan to get to bottom of such issues.
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