Calls to strip Coperforma of Sussex patient transport service contract

Patient transport service vehicles used by SECAmb before the contract was taken over by Coperforma
Patient transport service vehicles used by SECAmb before the contract was taken over by Coperforma

Embattled patient transport service provider Coperforma should be stripped of its contract, one union has suggested.

The private company took over from South East Coast Ambulance Service back in April, but during the first few months patients complained about numerous incidents of crews either not turning up or showing up late.

One of its sub-contractors VM Langfords went into administration earlier this year and Coperforma had to step in to guarantee the pay, jobs, and terms and conditions of employees by transferring them to other companies working under them on the contract.

However the GMB union, which represents staff working for sub-contractor Docklands Medical Services, has warned that many of its members could lose their jobs without money owed to them from their previous employers.

Gary Palmer, GMB organiser, said: “No more chances, no more waiting until the dust hopefully settles, the time has come to remove Coperfoma and all those that would put profit before patients and staff.”

He explained that the union had been made aware that all transferred staff could be given notice and dismissed from their current NHS contracts with a view to offering them inferior contracts on a take it or leave it basis, which could affect up to 60 staff.

The tender process for the contract was led by the High Weald Lewes Havens Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) on behalf of all seven CCGs covering Sussex.

Mr Palmer added: “The GMB have written assurances and viewed public broadcasts where Coperforma CEO Michael Clayton clearly states that their new providers would not only pick up the PTS work after the collapse of Langfords, but that staff would be looked after and not out of pocket, and importantly that all their terms and conditions would remain and be protected and not just during any inbound move to a new provider but with assurances that it would also do so for any future outbound transfer as well.

“Right from the very start when this contract was awarded to Coperforma despite the missed warning signs around their inability to deliver such a vital service for Sussex being ignored by the CCGs and its accountable officers, their delivery, accountability and responsibility has been seen to fail all measures, standards and targets by everyone except those who are ultimately responsible, the CCGs.”

But a spokesman for Coperforma said: “After its early teething problems the Sussex patient transport service is now working well and operationally it is achieving 94% of the performance targets set by the CCG.

“Moreover the employment contract dispute between the management and employees of Docklands Medical Services (DMS), one of our contract providers, will not affect the service nor the patient experience in any way.

“In collaboration with the CCG we have put in place our management and operational plan to mobilise sufficient resources from our other providers to fill any shortfall of vehicles and crews should the need arise.

“Having the capability of responding so quickly and efficiently to any operational threat is one of the essential benefits built into the Coperforma managed ambulance service.

“There has been an inference that the contractual problem at DMS is a result of Coperforma’s deliberate action.

“Such inferences are totally without foundation. All our contractual payments to DMS are up to date, since April we have paid the company a total of £ £525,120; further more we have not gone back on our commitment to ensure that all employees’ justified claims for overtime and unpaid salaries will be paid.

“As we explained at the time to the two unions involved – Unison and GMB – these claims were from individuals previously employed by VM Langfords, when the company went into liquidation. Subsequent claims went back several months to earlier this year and as a result it would take time to have them all fully verified. While Unison accepted our explanation and gave us reasonable time to check all the considerable amount of paperwork, the reaction of the GMB has been anything but helpful.

“The verification work is being undertaken as quickly as possible and we hope to get the matter resolved in the near future.”

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