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SALFORD NHS NEEDS SAVING AS AMBULANCES GET PRIVATISED
 

Star date: 26th November 2012

HUGE CAMPAIGN TO STOP PRIVATISATION OF AMBULANCES IN GREATER MCR

The contract for non-emergency patient transport service in Greater Manchester has been taken off the North West Ambulance Service, based in Eccles and around the county, and handed to private bus company Arriva.

A similar private service, Ambuline, joint run by Arriva in Leicester has been slated by the Quality Care Commission. Now the Save Our NHS: Keep Manchester Ambulances Public campaign is taking the fight against privatisation to the public and to Parliament. Chloe Glover reports…

Full details here…


A back-door attempt to privatise ambulance services for some of the region's most vulnerable has been slammed by Greater Manchester health workers and campaigners as "scandalous" for risking the health, safety and welfare of patients.

Ironically it has also been criticised as not even cost-effective, according to UNISON campaigners. Even though that was one of the main reasons behind the NHS Blackpool's Commissioning Business Services' awarding of the Patient Transport Service contract to bus company Arriva.

The decision to give the three year contract for providing non-emergency patient transport service in Greater Manchester to Arriva in September is the first time the service has been taken off the publicly funded North West Ambulance Service, which employs 374 staff who provide care and travel support to chemotherapy, disabled and elderly hospital patients.

It was made by obscure office bureaucrats based in Blackpool, miles away from those whose welfare they may be compromising, who make decisions for the entire North West region. It is planned that Arriva will take over the running of the service in March next year.

Now members of the Save Our NHS: Keep Manchester Ambulances Public campaign have announced their intention to tackle ministers head on when they go to parliament to present their petition on 10th December.

A 100 strong team of campaigners, flanked by UNISON's Dave Prentis and Andy Burnham, will lobby MPs to help reverse the decision and call for a public consultation. With almost 9,000 signatures under their belt the group hopes to have reached 10,000 by the date.

MPs Andy Burnham and Lucy Powell recently pledged to ask Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health to look into the contract and the lack of transparency on the issue, which campaigners believe has deliberately been pushed under the radar.

"Many people in the area aren't even aware that this decision has been made, yet alone consulted, by some bodies somewhere else who don't have much relation to the area. I think that's wrong" says Craig Wilde, UNISON branch secretary for the Eccles base of North West Ambulance Services and one of the campaign founders
 
"Manchester Primary Care Trust officials I've spoken to are absolutely amazed that the contract has been awarded to a bus company" he adds "You've got to ask what sort of say this panel in Blackpool even let them have in this. The NHS is meant to be a non-profit making organisation that belongs to us, at heart, not politicians, councils or business services. Arriva is a purely profit-making organisation. Any money it makes won't go back into the NHS but into the pockets of their shareholders; it's scandalous."

Blackpool NHS Commissioning Business Services made the decision supposedly due to Arriva's bid being the most "economically advantageous" offer. 

Hadrian Collier, of the NHS Blackpool Commissioning Service, said: "Arriva scored within 1 mark of the highest rated bid in the assessment of service quality and performance. Arriva are working with the commissioners to ensure they meet all the criteria of the contract for service commencement in April 2013 which will be enforced through the monitoring arrangements."

Yet Wilde believes there's a chance nothing will be saved from the move financially, which he says is costing the regional Strategic Health Authority exit costs from the service, hidden extras and doesn't account for what it will cost for North West Ambulance Services to re-bid for the contract in three year's time. He said: "this investment isn't even a long-term one. It's not a sensible decision even in terms of cost-saving."

"I think ultimately patients will also suffer a dip in quality of services" he adds "Staff will be delivering the service under different pressures. Our staff currently do a lot more than just pick up and drop off patients which I don't think a lot of people realise. I always like to believe we've got a chance of fighting a decision and we're not going to go down without a fight. We're certainly not going to give up because we've been to Parliament, we'll carry on doing this for as long as it takes."
 
Two grim reports made by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in September and October revealed that Arriva have already proved to be incapable of providing a safe and decent quality patient transport service in the East Midlands.

They took over some of the services from the public East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) earlier this year. Inspections of Ambuline in Leicester, which is joint-run by Arriva, revealed they are still failing overall in four out of five essential areas. This includes providing care that meets people's needs, caring for people safely and protecting them from harm, cleanliness and infection control, staffing, quality of service and suitability of management.

According to staff and users, the company's track record appears shambolic. It has made people late for appointments, sent staff to the wrong places, used buses that were too small and was so unprepared that it had to hire taxi firms to pick up some patients. Some think not all new staff have received adequate training, Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks have not routinely carried out and ambulances have been described in some cases as so dirty that one driver said "I had to return my car this morning because I was embarrassed."

Corall Jenkins, Regional organiser for UNISON Nottingham fears for the future of the ambulance service.

"It's an absolute mess if I'm honest" she says "It's not saved the NHS any money at all. Arriva have moved into a completely different culture and now have to respond to patients' needs plus train up staff to an appropriate level; the task is too big for them. I think there's a threat that in future costs may be transferred to patients because I don't think that there was a real cost analysis process done by Arriva when they took the project on."

The danger posed by running ambulance services for profit does not even stop there. Since losing the contract EMAS has proposed to cut community ambulance stations to save £15million in the next five years, reducing its 70 ambulance stations in the area to 13 depots.

Although EMAS staff were transferred to ARRIVA and no redundancies have yet been made Ms Jenkins believes it's "very up in the air." She says new staff hired by Arriva are getting paid a lot less than existing staff who have similar roles, that all are having to fight for the right to be able to finish on time and that the company is trying to get around having to give certain meal allowances. It sets a deeply unsettling precedent for the future of the service in Salford and Manchester. However Corall Jenkins and other staff are now working with Arriva to improve the service and the company appear to be listening to them.

Angela Rayner, of UNISON North West, spoke of the complete public outrage the campaign group has witnessed whilst out campaigning, but believes that a lot more publicity needs to be done so people are aware of what is happening and can then stand up against what is essentially the start of the slippery slope to further privatisation of the NHS… "The tipping point will be the public", she explains.
 
Peter Lea, 63, who uses the service weekly, only found out about the privatisation after being told by a member of staff… "I'm very worried after reading the report on ARRIVA in Leicester" he says "It makes you wonder how closely the bid in Greater Manchester has been scrutinised. Being late is a very distressing experience. If we miss our appointment we have to make another which could be a risk to our health. What happens to the service if ARRIVA goes into liquidation before its contract ends, which is always a possibility?"

If you live in Salford and use the patient transport service the campaign organisers would like to hear from you. To get further details and sign the petition click here

To read the CQC verdict on Ambuline click here

There is also a demo and rally to save all Greater Manchester A&Es, Hospitals and Ambulances on Saturday 8th December 12:30 beginning at All Saints on Oxford Road and concluding at Cathedral Gardens in Manchester.

Winston Smith wrote
at 12:14:26 on 03 December 2012
Mr Felse, why do you assume that social enterprise would be the right way to go? Ambulances are used universally by the public so, logically, they should be owned by the public and accountable to the public. It's not the organisational structure that's wrong with the NHS, it's shit senior management and the bloody endless, endless political interference by career Party Politicians.
 
Michael Felse wrote
at 11:36:23 on 03 December 2012
Am shocked at wrong kind of "privatisation". Social enterprise should have been the name of this game by handing the services to the third sector with equal funding provided for 5 years by Government to ease the transition. I am not against innovative change but this health move makes me say it is time for the UK to get out of Europe, however I do not trust UKiP on making that happen. I am looking for a solution.
 
No fan of Cam wrote
at 11:35:52 on 03 December 2012
Tahir Chakotai that's a disgusting thing to write. Many people on here are not fans of Cameron but would not dream of making such an evil comment, i think it is you who needs to see a shrink. You appear to have a very sick and warped mind and clearly need the help of the NHS, however making comments like this will not get you access to this help, go see your GP instead tell him/her your thoughts. Your post does show one thing NHS mental health services need protecting.
 
Tahir Chakotai wrote
at 18:31:40 on 02 December 2012
I think I have a theory, to why Mr. D. Cameron, is selling off the N.H.S. As everyone is aware, Mr. Cameron, has been against the N.H.S. since his disabled child died. I feel that Mr. Cameron, has not grieved, and see's the N.H.S, as the body,whom are responsible for this travesty. On top of that, he seems to be punishing the disabled, by reducing, and removing, certain benefits, so that the disabled are worse off. My guess is, that if his disabled child died, then why should the disabled, whom are still alive, have a happy life. To stop this disgusting treatment of the N.H.S., I feel Mr. D. Cameron must grieve for his loss, and stop blaming others. For him to do this, he needs the help of a good Shrink. So if there is a good Shrink in Britain, please come to the aid of Mr. D. Cameron, for the sake of all, who are Ill, and disabled.
 
David Blue wrote
at 11:47:57 on 27 November 2012
If people don't want NHS service contracts to go to private companies, campaigns should focus on Euro MPs because our Government can do nothing to stop public services being competitively tendered - its a legal requirement!! As a taxpayer and patient of the NHS, I don't really care who runs the organisation to provide me with care as long as we keep the NHS to be free when we need it and paid for using taxpayers money. If private companies can run things more efficiently, let them. No doubt all sorts of failings can be found about any company or even NHS organisations, not just this paticular Ambulance company.
 
ParanoidAndroid wrote
at 10:55:01 on 27 November 2012
...not to mention that a private taxi company will have access to some of your personal health information. 'Cor blimey, you'll never guess who I dropped off at the pox clinic last week...'
 
not happy wrote
at 07:33:56 on 27 November 2012
A different transport operator will be taking eligible patients to and from their NHS appointments in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland from 1 July. Arriva Transport Solutions, through its recently acquired subsidiary Ambuline Ltd, has invested in 130 new vehicles for the five-year NHS contract to provide free, non-emergency patient transport. East Midlands Ambulance Service will continue providing this transport until the changeover date. Non-emergency patient transport is only for people with a genuine medical need who cannot get to and from their appointments any other way. Many of their journeys are for planned care, including outpatient appointments. The right to free travel is based solely on clinical need, not on inability to pay. NHS managers in the Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland estimate the new five-year contract for the area is worth about £31.3m. It includes an increase on current running costs to ensure an enhanced service and one that can meet demand at all times. Arriva emerged as the preferred bidder in December last year after a competitive tendering process for the contract. Their new fleet will use satellite navigation to help reduce traveling time. Patients will receive text message reminders about their appointments, to help avoid wasting time and money on journeys that may no longer be needed.this was taken from leicester city clinical commsioning group Health officials have apologised to a 93-year-old woman who had to wait nearly four hours for transport home following a hospital appointment.Patients have complained about being left for hours waiting for lifts home and others picked up late for appointments. Ms Hassell said: "Overall, the situation has been improving over the first three months of the contract, although there remain some issues that need resolving more effectively.so is this what have got to look forward long waits theve been going this in Leicester for three months and still not got it rite;; there alot more about this on Leicesters nhs arriva web site,and why £31.3m.is this how much it costs, if it is where the saving to nhs;;; arriva are not doing for nothing
 
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