For a full background, please read Part One – click here…
Last Saturday, 6th April, the Salford Star received an urgent email from Caroline Connelly, seriously worried about her mother, Annette's treatment by Arriva Transport Solutions, which had just taken over the non-emergency patient transport service, from the public North West Ambulance Service.
Here we re-print Caroline's e-mails, almost in full, plus reactions from Arriva and the NHS…
Sent on Saturday 6th April
Dear Salford Star
I am writing this email to you as I feel you are the most appropriate person to come to with mine, and my mother's, story following your article in November 2012 regarding Arriva taking over Manchester patient ambulance service.
Arriva took over my mother's patient transport to haemodialysis appointments on Tuesday 2nd April. The first shambles that occurred was as soon as they turned up they told us they had nowhere to store my mother's wheelchair unless she was to sit in it. This in itself does not seem like a big deal but my mother is very frail, very shaky, extremely nervous and will not even sit in her wheelchair in a taxi on the way home from the local shops.
Then, following this, they didn't even know their way to the Manchester Royal Infirmary, my mother had to direct them. My mother then asked if they had had any training at all because letters we received from the hospital stated all Arriva staff were first aid trained. They said they had no training, it was their first day, they then took my mother to the wrong entrance distressing my mother more.
Then, when taking my mother through the hospital to the renal unit they decided to stop and chat to people they knew leaving my mother helpless and anxiously waiting, so much so my mother had to ask them to please take her to her appointment. If this was not bad enough once she had finished dialysis my mother, along with nine other dialysis patients, was left waiting from 6pm to 8pm for an Arriva bus to bring her home. When the ward clerk couldn't get hold of anyone at Arriva, after trying for nearly an hour, they put all ten patients in Mantax black cabs to come home.
I wish I could say these were the only incidents of incompetence we have had to suffer but I'm afraid this is the tip of the iceberg.
I emailed the company to complain, asking them to look into their shambolic service, to which I received an email telling me they couldn't process the complaint without a written consent form being filled out by me and my mother and being witnessed by another 3rd party who was not a family member…
…Thursday's transport was even worse. The letter we received from the hospital also stated that Arriva taking over transport would result in higher efficiency and shorter waiting times - so I was appalled when Arriva turned up at 11:30am to pick my mother up for a 2pm dialysis slot. She is diabetic and can't eat while on the dialysis machines as it makes her ill. She already has lunch early Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday because of going in for dialysis, and her old transport didn't pick her up until between 12:10 and 1pm for her 2pm dialysis slot. I had to turn the Arriva ambulance away because I refused to send her hungry. We then had to phone the hospital who said Arriva wouldn't come back.
My mother then worked herself into a state and the hospital ended up sending a taxi yet again. Following my mother's dialysis finishing she was given a sandwich and drink, and was left to wait for the Arriva service to arrive. She 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 phoned the ward who advised me to phone an ambulance, rather than wait in case she got worse.
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 happened on Thursday evening either. My mother was still suffering yesterday, Friday as a result of Thursday's hypo…
…I emailed Arriva stating these circumstances to them and complaining again of the utter disgust I felt at the state my mother came home in on Thursday evening because of their complete lack of care, and asked them how a company who couldn't even run a public bus service was allowed to bid for a hospital contract, let alone win it. To which I have received no response.
I really want to get this story out in the media as I feel that the way my mother has been treated is worse than you would treat a animal, and after reading your November article I'm sure there are more people in the region who have suffered at the hands of Arriva's incompetence.
Sent later on Saturday…
Also just a quick update regarding transport to the hospital for my mother. Today Arriva haven't bothered to show, for which reason I do not know. A black cab from Mantax has just shown up to take my mother to the hospital, on the hospital account. And while my mother is a lot happier that it isn't Arriva at the door I really fail to see how by giving this contract to Arriva it is saving the NHS money, as the hospital has now paid for 4 out of 5 trips to dialysis or home for my mother.
Sent later on Saturday…
Just another quick update for you. My mother was sent home by taxi from the MRI. We have had no word from Arriva at all today and while my mother was on the unit today patients were arriving late by taxi, as Arriva hadn't sent a bus for them. Some taxis, apparently, were paid for by Arriva but my mother's driver told her the hospital had booked her taxi.
Sent on Wednesday morning… after the Salford Star contacted Caroline to say that Arriva had produced a quote and were `sorry'…
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
REACTION FROM ARRIVA TRANSPORT SOLUTIONS…
Jonathan May, managing director of specialist transport provider Arriva Transport Solutions, said: "We are sorry to hear that Mrs Connelly is unhappy with the service she received from ATSL. We take patient complaints extremely seriously and will undertake a full investigation. We will share the findings of this with the patient and their relatives.
"Last week we transferred 330 former North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust employees to ATSL and they transported more than 7000 patients to their hospital appointments.
"We are aware that some patients did wait longer than they should have and we are sorry for any distress this may have caused. On the occasions where this happened, we maintained close dialogue with the hospitals to ensure that those patients affected were still able to attend their appointments.
"Improving the experience for patients and reducing delays is our main priority. Through focused planning, we have already helped to reduce travelling times for many patients and we are committed to introducing further improvements in the future. We have also received positive feedback from a number of patients complimenting the professionalism of people and welcoming the new, more comfortable vehicles."
"We have invested some £4 million in new bespoke ambulances and £1 million in upgrading technology in readiness for us starting to provide Great Manchester's non-emergency patient transport services (PTS) from last Monday (1 April).
"Every year we will be helping some 500,000 patients get to and from their hospital appointment, so we have worked closely with all employees, the NHS and patient groups to make the transition to Arriva as seamless as possible."
An Arriva Transport Solutions spokesperson added: "We have a robust complaints policy and this does require the consent of the patient in order for an investigation to be undertaken. We are in dialogue with this patient so will not be able to provide specific details relating to her care.
"All vehicles have satellite navigation systems installed that can help them navigate to hospitals and patients' homes, and all staff have received first aid training" she added "In the interim, in making changes to the way the contract is being delivered, we have authorised some use of taxis to supplement our crews in order to ensure that patients are taken to and from their appointments. The cost of these will be met by ATSL, not the hospitals."
REACTION FROM THE NHS…
The Salford Star asked the NHS Blackpool, Lead Commissioners for Non-Emergency Patient Transport Services in the North West, which awarded Arriva Transport Solutions the contract, the following questions…
Q: Is the hospital having to call private taxi services to fill the Arriva gaps/missed appointments?
A: Arriva will provide the most appropriate mode of transport for the patient including taxi's to ensure all patients are delivered to and from their appointments.
Q: Is the hospital having to pay for these taxis as well as the contract with Arriva?
A: Where the patient is eligible for Patient Transport the costs are met by the Clinical Commissioning Groups in Greater Manchester with Arriva.
Q: Who actually gave the contract for these transport services to Arriva and are there penalties if they fail to deliver?
A: Following a robust competitive tender process and evaluation of potential providers against a service specification developed through extensive engagement with stakeholders including patients, clinical networks and acute provider trusts Arriva Transport solutions were awarded the three year Greater Manchester contract by the then ten Greater Manchester Primary Care Trusts. The contract contains key performance measures which Arriva as the Provider is expected to meet. If these key performance indicators are not met then Arriva will not receive part of the contractual payment.
Q: What would the hospital say to this woman and her daughter given the distress they have been put through?
A: Arriva are responsible for the delivery of Patient Transport Services and will follow a full investigation and respond directly to the woman and her daughter.
* Main photo shows Annette Connelly in better times, with grand daughter Kiera Connelly.
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.
UPDATE: 24th April 2013
Just got a message in from Caroline who is trying to trace one of her mother's friends...
"I was wondering if the is any way your readers could help. I'm trying to locate a friend of my mums who she grew up with, and was really close to, until she got ill. Her name is Helen Fahey she lived at Park Avenue, Timperley with her husband John, son John, daughter Kathy son Craig and son Michael.
She was a childminder and may still be a childminder I think her daughter Kathy married a man named Kevin Legg and bought a house in Broadheath after their wedding.
Kathy attended blessed Thomas Holford High School Altrincham, and Craig and Michael attended St Ambrose. I think Helen lived next door to her sister, they also had a pot bellied pig as a pet named Dotty. Her husband John used to drink in the Cheshire Cheese pub in Altrincham. I want to try and do things right by mum Mrs Annette Connelly, who was Annette Lynch before she married my dad but Helen would know her under either name."
If anyone can help please contact firstname.lastname@example.org