Last November, the Salford Star ran a story about a campaign called Save Our NHS: Keep Manchester Ambulances Public. The campaign was trying to stop the privatisation of the non-emergency patient transport service, from the public North West Ambulance Service, to the private company Arriva Transport Solutions (read the article here).
At the time, Craig Wilde, UNISON branch secretary for the Eccles branch of North West Ambulance Services, said that "patients will also suffer a dip in quality of services…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…"
The campaign against the "scandalous" privatisation of the ambulance service included presenting a petition to Parliament, while MPs Andy Burnham and Lucy Powell pledged to ask the Government why such a sensitive contract was given to a private bus company. The decision to award the contract to Arriva was taken by Blackpool NHS Commissioning Business Services, supposedly due to Arriva's bid being the most "economically advantageous" offer.
The protests were in vain and, at the beginning of the month, Arriva Transport Solutions took over the non-emergency patient transport service. Within a week, the Salford Star was already hearing of ill people waiting for hours at home and in hospitals for the new privatised ambulances to arrive.
Last Saturday we received an e-mail from Caroline Connelly, whose frail and nervous mother, Annette, needs regular visits to the Manchester Royal Infirmary for dialysis treatment. Pre-Arriva she'd never had a problem with getting to and from the hospital. When Arriva took over, the horrors began…
Caroline told the Star that ambulances turned up late, or not at all. In four out of five trips to and from the MRI, private taxis had to be ordered.
Caroline wrote that, after one trip to the hospital, her mother was ready for collection at 5:45pm "but when the transport still hadn't shown at 6:45pm my mother began working herself up again, resulting in the hospital phoning a taxi for her for a third time.
"My mother was then put in the taxi and, when part way home, began to suffer from a hypoglycaemic attack. When she arrived home she was extremely shaky, irritable and barely comprehensible, even after I administered one of her hypo stop remedies and gave her a fizzy drink. Her dinner was also ready and I gave it her but she was in such a bad way she couldn't eat or drink and kept drifting in and out of consciousness..
"I wholly believe this is nobody's fault except Arriva's, as this has never happened before. And if it weren't for her prolonged waiting time coming home I believe it wouldn't have happened on Thursday evening either. My mother was still suffering yesterday, Friday, as a result of Thursday's hypo…"
Today, we contacted Caroline to see how her mum was, and to say we had an apology from Arriva about her mother's treatment. Caroline replied…
"My mum had a heart attack yesterday and is currently critical in the MRI on ventilators. It's nice to know they're sorry, it just may in this case be sorry far too late…
Yours through bloodshot eyes"
In Part Two we re-print Caroline's emails in full, with reactions from Arriva and the NHS...click here
UPDATE: 17th April 2013
Annette Connelly, the lady featured in this article, unfortunately died this morning. The Salford Star's thoughts go out to the family.