Sussex’s new patient transport service provider has missed key performance targets in its first three months.
Last April private company Coperforma took over from South East Coast Ambulance Service but the service was mired in problems from the outset.
Several sub-contractors working for Coperforma went into administration, even the company admitted it had ‘badly let down many patients’, and repeated calls were made to strip the firm of its contract.
Just seven months into the contract a ‘mutual divorce’ was announced between the company and commissioners.
South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, which runs emergency services across Hampshire, Berkshire, Oxfordshire, and Buckinghamshire, stepped in to take over the PTS contract in Sussex from this April.
However for the first three months the trust has missed targets for some of the main patient-focused indicators, although performance has steadily improved over that time period.
The two main challenges have been mobilising the contract in a short period of time and a higher than expected demand for services.
A spokesman for SCAS said: “Whilst we are never happy to miss a target, because we are aware that every delayed journey impacts on one of our patients, we are satisfied that the hard work put in by all our staff is seeing a steady improvement in performance levels.
“This improvement in performance across the three month period is reflected across all of the contract KPIs, except one around confirming bookings with patients.
“Even with the issues with mobilising the contract, the performance over the first three months of the service has still been better than the first three months for the same period in 2016 under the previous provider.”
In April 72.2 per cent of non-renal inbound journeys arrived between 75-0 minutes early, against a target of 85 per cent.
This was up to 78.7 per cent in June.
For renal inbound journeys, which are expected to arrive between 45-0 minutes early, against a target of 90 per cent, April’s performance was 60.6 per cent and in June it had risen to 69.6 per cent.
SCAS easily achieved its target to collect patients within 30 minutes for non-renal outbound journeys, but for renal outbound journeys against a target of 85 per cent, the service achieved 74.4 per cent in April and 80.6 per cent in June.
The High Weald Lewes Havens Clinical Commissioning Group is the lead commissioner for the service for other Sussex CCGs.
Sarah Richards, chief of clinical quality and performance at the CCG, has said: “Obviously nothing is ever perfect and we’ve strived to continue working with SCAS to improve things further but generally over the last three months we’ve seen a great improvement in the data, the performance and the quality of the service.”
A spokesman for SCAS added: “The main challenge faced when taking over the provision of the patient transport service in Sussex was the fact that the mobilisation had to be completed at short notice.
“There are a large number of things that need to be in place to provide the service that patients expect and deserve, including property, vehicles and, most importantly, staff.
“SCAS is experienced at successfully mobilising these contracts, but the short timescales made this an especially challenging process. The other major challenge we have faced is that we are seeing about 31 per cent more patients than we were led to believe when we were going through the planning stages. This has obviously put a strain on the service, but we have been working with the commissioners to address this and to make sure that all the necessary resources are in place to provide a high level of service to our patients.”