Emergency care and ambulance services









There has been a catalogue of failures by private companies with contracts in emergency care and ambulance services. Patients have been affected by these failures through missing vital appointments, being stuck in their homes and reports of poor care.



One of the most controversial failures in recent times has been the Coperforma contract in Sussex for non-emergency transport. This four-year contract worth £63.5 million was awarded in 2015 by seven CCGs.

Coperforma replaced the NHS's South-East Coast ambulance service (SECamb) on 1 April 2016; it was then just a matter of days, before problems with the contract hit the headlines.

By mid-April local and national press were reporting on a service in chaos, with crews not turning up to pick up patients leading to missed appointments and patients languishing for hours in hospitals awaiting transport home.

Patients included those with kidney failure with appointments for dialysis and cancer patients attending chemotherapy sessions. The GMB union representing the ambulance crews said it was an "absolute shambles".

Finally, in October 2016, Coperforma were forced to give up the contract.

Private Ambulance Service

In September 2017, the private ambulance company, Private Ambulance Service contracted to run non-emergency patient transport from hospitals in Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire went intro administration.

The business, which ran 126 vehicles and employed 300 people, took over the contract in April 2017.

Problems had been reported with the service, with Herts Valley CCG issuing an apology after ongoing performance issues, including leaving vulnerable patients stuck in their homes or in hospital for hours waiting for transport.

Care UK

In September 2016, Verita produced a critical report on Care UK's urgent care contract in Ealing. The contract awarded by Ealing Primary Care Trust in 2011 was worth £3.9 million to run an urgent care centre in Ealing Hospital.

The independent report by Verita was triggered following complaints of poor care made to ITV reporters. The report noted that there was a gap in the assurance process carried out by the CCG as well as problems with the staffing model used by Care UK, which "took no account of predictable peaks in demand".


In September 2015 the transport company Arriva was found to have wrongly claimed £1.5 million in bonuses on the contract to run non-emergency transport for NHS patients in Manchester.

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