Private medical contractor Coperforma is in the eye of a storm after taking over hospital transport in Sussex on 1st April. Eight days after the contractor took over, the NHS launched an investigation into its services. Several patients had missed their appointments.
This incident has led to protestors staging a 24-hour demonstration to get the authorities to cancel the patient transport contract. The protest was held outside the NHS commissioners’ office, located in Lewes.
The GMB union, which is leading the protest, is demanding that Coperforma be removed from the contract.
Gary Palmer from the GMB stated that protestors, including a few renal dialysis patients, were camping outside the NHS commissioners’ offices, and that more protestors and campaigners were expected to join the demonstration.
Palmer said that the health commissioners had refused to meet the protestors and were not taking responsibility for the missed patient appointments.
However, Coperforma and NHS commissioners stated that the issues were being handled and dealt with.
High Weald Clinical Commissioning Group (CGC) said in a statement that Coperforma had been contracted for all seven CGCs in Sussex, and they were working with Coperforma and NHS trusts to resolve the issues plaguing the patient transport service. The statement said that a plan was already in place to oversee the performance, risks and operational problems that the contractor may experience.
Coperforma said that it regretted that the GMB union had chosen to protest when all the concerned parties were working together to resolve the challenges. The NHS contractor stated that the union had refused to be part of the discussion involving union recognition prior to its takeover on 1st April. Hence, Unison had been declared the recognised union.
A Unison spokesperson stated that the CGC had been forced to outsource work to private contractors. It said that contracts such as patient transports should be operated as a public service to benefit the public rather than private contractors, who were more interested in garnering profits.