On April 1st this year, Arriva Transport Solutions controversially took over Greater Manchester's non-emergency ambulance service from the NHS. Since then there have been 116 complaints about Arriva's service – a rate of almost four a day.
Before Arriva took over the NHS service, there were petitions and even a lobby of Parliament led by Andy Burnham MP and UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis.
Meanwhile, Eccles-based Craig Wilde, UNISON branch secretary for North West Ambulance Services, told the Salford Star "I think ultimately 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." (see Salford Star article – click here)
Within days of the Arriva privatisation, Caroline Connelly got in touch with Salford Star about the treatment of her mother, Annette…
"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…"
Caroline listed a whole catalogue of complaints about Arriva's service which, she believed, contributed to her mother having a heart attack… "I wholly believe this is nobody's fault except Arriva's, as this has never happened before" she told the Star. Unfortunately, days after, her mother died (read the full story – click here and click here).
Since then, the Salford Star has been contacted by carers, patients and, indeed, some of the drivers themselves, criticising Arriva's approach to working with some of the most vulnerable people in society.
We contacted Arriva asking, amongst other things, how many complaints they had actually received. The company responded…
"Since the start of the contract on 1 April, we have undertaken almost 27,000 patient journeys. Since then, we have received 116 complaints, all of which we take extremely seriously. Each one is fully investigated and the findings and any resultant actions are shared directly with patients and/or their representatives."
116 complaints is a rate of almost four per day since the service began, and has to be seen also in light of how difficult it is to actually put a complaint in…
"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…" Caroline told the Star in the previous feature.
"It's really worrying to hear that a private ambulance service is not meeting local people's needs" says Mary Eminson, of the Salford NHS Support Group "It proves that when private companies put in cheaper quotes for services it doesn't mean that it's more efficient. To people using Arriva, I would encourage them to make complaints if they don't get a proper service. It is the only to let the people who commissioned them know what is going on."
Ian Palmer, Campaigns Manager at 38 Degrees added: "Concerns about the impact of privatisation on local ambulance services in Greater Manchester are echoed by people across the country.
"Over 360,000 38 Degrees members have been campaigning against Government rules forcing nearly all local health contracts to be tendered out to private companies" he explained "It is exactly the problems like those being experienced in Greater Manchester which people are worried about. Hopefully the local people-powered campaign will be successful in providing an ambulance service people are happy with."
The Salford Star also asked Arriva…
Apart from NHS workers who were transferred over to Arriva when the ambulance service changed, how many new drivers were recruited?
"Approximately 300 NHS staff transferred over from North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust. We have recruited an additional 34 staff, with 8 more starting this week."
How many days training did these new drivers receive per person? What did the training involve?
"New ambulance staff undertake two full weeks of training which includes a detailed programme of; induction into the company, briefings on uniform policy, code of conduct requirements, management supervision and training, working procedures, patient and data confidentiality, emergency roles, forms and ICT equipment, patient and manual handling, first aid, clinical and caring skills, safeguarding and safety, customer service, driving and practical skills. These staff are trained to the same high standards as staff who have transferred from the NHS. Following their training, new starters are then partnered with an experienced member of staff for at least 12 weeks before operating alone."
Were any of the new drivers involved in the transportation to or from hospital of Annette Connelly?
"We can only provide detailed information relating an individual patient's care directly to the patient or their relatives/representatives, however, any new staff are put together with an experienced staff member for at least the first 12 weeks after their initial training so a new staff member would not have transferred any patient in Greater Manchester without an experienced crew member with them."
For further details on Salford NHS Support Group – click here
To sign the 38 Degrees petition against the privatisation of the NHS – click here. Or to start a campaign see www.38degrees.org.uk
This year's May Day Rallies have Save Our NHS as a central theme…
Saturday 4th May – meet at Bexley Square, Salford 10:00am for rally and march to Manchester
Photo shows the late Annette Connelly with her grand daughter