Ambulance drivers fear cuts in pay
THERE are fears of further blows for the ambulance service after a huge chunk was handed to a private company. Medical Services has been awarded the contract for Patient Transport Services across Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire after submitting a tender £5
THERE are fears of further blows for the ambulance service after a huge chunk was handed to a private company.
Medical Services has been awarded the contract for Patient Transport Services across Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire after submitting a tender £50,000 lower than the East of England Ambulance Service - the NHS organisation which has held the contract for 30 years.
NHS drivers will begin working for the private company when the new contract starts on June 1.
During a press conference, John Toomey, regional communications officer for Unison, said: "If they are going to make any money on this contract it will be by screwing these people with their pay and conditions.
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"I cannot think of any area of work where this has not applied and it is happening across the board especially in the public services."
He added: "If they do lower their pay and lower their working conditions we will see them in court and every penny made from this exercise will be spent on the case."
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The service currently employs more than 100 people to transfer patients to and from hospitals and doctors' surgeries - some of whom are seriously ill.
The drivers are specially trained just in case an emergency occurs during the 1,100 journeys made every day.
And there are concerns that Medical Services may not offer the drivers the same training.
Rob Ashford, locality chief operating officer for Hertfordshire, said that the level of training offered in the tender from the East of England Ambulance Service "exceeded that offered by any other company".
"Our crews have basic life support skills to maintain a patient until help arrives," he added.
Mr Ashford said that the ambulance service would not be appealing against the decision because in order to lodge one there would have to be a belief that the process was flawed.
He added: "We have every intention of competing with this organisation if the tender should come up again in five years time."
Jackie Nash, a current ambulance driver who covers East and North Hertfordshire, said she and her colleagues were in the dark about any changes their new employer may make.
She said: "We don't know what's going to happen.
"We have not been approached by the private company. We don't know where we are going to be based, what our shift patterns are going to be or anything. It's all up in the air."
Roger D'Elia, chairman of the implementation group for the consortium of health trusts across Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire who awarded the contract to Medical Services, said: "Medical Services has extensive experience of providing non-emergency patient transport and will be able to focus on providing high-quality services to those who rely on this valuable service."
* For the first time in this financial year, hospital bosses are predicting they will reduce their deficit to the Government-set year-end target of £7.5m.
At the end of January, the East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust recorded a deficit of £8.363m but hospital chiefs are increasingly confident they can close the £863,000 gap by April.