Patient transfers flat-line in Sussex after ‘disastrous handover’ between suppliers

The NHS has launched an investigation into patient transport services in Sussex after the appointment of a new service provider triggered severe delays and missed appointments for patients.

The Sussex Patient Transport Service (PTS) was taken over by Coperforma on 01 April following a procurement process led by High Weald Lewes Havens Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) on behalf of seven CCGs in Sussex.

PTS services help transport people who are unable to travel any other way because of health conditions to healthcare appointments across the county, providing 25,000 journeys per month.

However the Sussex CCGs have launched an investigation after the disastrous handover of the service.

“The overall standard of the service provided by Coperforma since its launch on 1 April has not been acceptable and both Coperforma and the Sussex CCGs have issued a public apology to all affected patients,” it said.

“A combination of technology issues and problems with patient data and journey records created severe delays and missed appointments for some patients.”

This in turn this triggered a flood of calls to Coperforma’s call centres jamming lines so patients and healthcare staff were unable to get through.

The CCGs said they were taking the situation seriously and had requested a report from Coperforma on call handling and waiting times since 1 April and the number of journeys missed and patients affected.

However Michael Clayton, CEO of Coperforma said factors outside of the company’s control when it took over the service contributed to a ‘perfect storm’ that “mitigated against as successful start to the service as had been planned”.

Coperforma said hundreds of journey bookings had been withheld until late on the night before the company took over the service and that it was investigating why this was.

“The late timing of the data provided to Coperforma on Thursday night on patients and their journeys, together with issues about the quality of that data presented huge challenges to its transfer into the booking system,” the company said.

“These factors resulted in many more thousands of calls to the booking line than expected, diverting staff from delivering the service expected by patients and NHS staff.”

The former service provider, SECAmb, said it had acted professionally throughout the transfer process.

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