Sussex GPs who hold senior CCG management posts have seen their practices picketed by ambulance staff.
The issue is related to a disagreement over unpaid wages, following the collapse of a private provider.
Workers from the Sussex Patient Transport service employed by subcontractor Docklands Medical Services suggest that they are owed unpaid wages following the dissolution of the company.
The workers’ GMB union states that an ethical commissioning group involved in employing the private company in the first place is responsible for the financial difficulties of the ambulance workers.
In particular, it is suggested that the was a failure to carry out sufficient due diligence checks before handing the service to contractor Coperforma.
Workers are now strongly protesting the conditions under which the cessation of the company has taken place, and began picketing outside the practice of Brighton and Hove CCG chairman Dr Xavier Nalletamby recently.
The GMB union believes that the clinical commissioning group responsible for the region should reverse the award and enable a local ambulance trust or other legitimate NHS body to take over the contract.
Commenting on the issue, GMB regional organiser Gary Palmer indicated that there would be widespread protest until a suitable solution was found by the NHS authorities in the area.
“Not only has the error of awarding the ambulance service to Coperforma seen patients’ journey experiences plummet to an all-time low but has left GMB members who, despite not being paid, have carried on working and would have continued to work if Docklands Medical Services Ltd hadn’t closed its doors on 14 September. GMB members have continued to deliver the best service possible without jobs for the second time in 11 weeks following the previous contractor VM Langford’s liquidation”.
Palmer went on to make it extremely clear how he apportions blame for the existing situation.
“The responsibility for this whole mess lies squarely at the door of the Sussex CCG members. It’s a responsibility the GMB now expects them to exercise in bringing this service back into the NHS family immediately, either with South East Coast Ambulance Service or even into a Sussex-based NHS hospital trust to administer on behalf of the whole of the county”.
Previous reports have conceded that the patient transport service has significantly underperformed since the award of the contract to Coperforma.
Responding to the complaints, a Coperforma spokesman indicated that the company is seeking a satisfactory resolution to the issue.
“We are urgently seeking clarification of overnight reports that Docklands Medical Services (DMS) has ceased operations and will issue further information as and when we receive it. In the meantime we can assure all patients that there will be no impact on the provision of the patient transport service across Sussex because one of the key benefits of the Coperforma managed service is that we can quickly switch capacity, as we have done in this case, to another provider”.
The spokesperson also suggested that the company had been left in the dark regarding certain important issues related to the running of the contract agreed.
“We had no prior knowledge from the management of DMS of this turn of events, particularly as all our contractual financial obligations to the company are fully up to date, we have received written assurance from them to that effect, and we were assured that all staff salaries were being paid. Since DMS agreed to take over from VM Langfords we have made payments to them totalling £479,256. Coperforma is a financially sound company, our contractors’ invoices are being paid on time and the Sussex patient transport service is operating well”.
The clinical commissioning group in the region has already apologised to both patients and ambulance staff over the problem.