Ambulance service to go private
A SIGNIFICANT chunk of the ambulance service looks set to be privatised across Herts and Beds from April. A commissioning consortium, made up of nine NHS organisations across the two counties, has recommended the contract for non-emergency ambulance servi
A SIGNIFICANT chunk of the ambulance service looks set to be privatised across Herts and Beds from April.
A commissioning consortium, made up of nine NHS organisations across the two counties, has recommended the contract for non-emergency ambulance services is awarded to a private company.
Non-emergency ambulance services include transferring patients to and from hospitals and doctors' surgeries, as well as ferrying vital equipment and patient records across different hospital sites.
An ambulance driver for the East of England Ambulance Service - the NHS organisation which currently holds the contract - said: "We have had this contract for 30 years and all of a sudden we stand to lose it.
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"The service patients are used to getting is going to completely change.
"If there was a major incident we are trained to deal with it, whereas a private company can't go near it because they are not trained.
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"It's in the best interest of the patients and the hospitals that we keep the contract but we need public support and backing."
A spokesman for the East of England Ambulance Service said: "It's bad news for the ambulance service as a whole if we were to lose the contract because some of the work we do does blur the lines between emergency and non-emergency incidents.
"There's no doubt that splitting the ambulance service up could affect our capabilities."
He added: "Private companies will also be looking at ways of making efficiencies."
John Toomey, regional officer for UNISON, said: "We see it as an extremely bad idea.
"To amputate a major part of the NHS will cause major problems for the rest of the service.
"In the event that there's a major incident there is no doubt in my mind that there will be major risks for patients if the private company takes over.
"We are diluting public services and it's happening to save money. It's only about money."
The East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust's chief executive, Nick Carver, said: "The provision of non-emergency patient transport is an important, yet costly service. While the service provided through the local ambulance service has always been good, recent years have seen a significant rise in its cost.
"Given the financial pressures being faced by the health service, especially in Hertfordshire, the consortium has recommended that [a private company] is awarded the contract from April this year."
The final decision is set to be made by the hospital Trust boards across the two counties on February 12 and, if the recommendation made by the consortium is approved, the new contract will start in April.