AMBULANCE staff in Worcestershire are fearful for the future of their jobs after the contract for non-emergency patient transport was awarded to a private firm.
Private company E-Zec Medical Transport will take over management of the county’s non-emergency ambulances from April 2020, marking an end to West Midlands Ambulance Service’s 30 years running the service.
The non-emergency ambulances, which are white as opposed to yellow, take patients from their homes to hospitals and treatment centres for consultations, treatments and procedures, and are based at stations in Kidderminster’s Stourport Road, the Princess of Wales Hospital in Bromsgrove, and one near Worcester.
WORKERS have been left “in tears” after West Midlands Ambulance Service lost its contract for its non-emergency patient transport service.
County employees for the service will be among workers uncertain about their future as the private company set to take over the running, has not confirmed if it will will keep the patient transport service station based in Worcester.
UNISON regional organiser Chanel Willis said: “Staff at West Midlands Ambulance Service have been doing a great job, which is reflected in the service’s ‘outstanding’ rating.
“We are all deeply shocked at the decision to award the contract to a private company.
“Many questions have yet to be answered – primarily where staff will be based.
“Staff are devastated that the decision may affect patient care and their livelihoods.”
Non-emergency service operations delivery director for WMAS, Michelle Brotherton, said: “Commissioners set out how much they felt the contract should be worth.
“However, given our extensive experience of running services like this we didn’t feel that it was possible to run the contract for that amount as it would have affected the quality of care for patients and ultimately their safety.
“We acknowledge that our bid fell outside the financial envelope set by the Commissioners, but we are simply not prepared to put patient care at risk.
“The scoring we have had back from commissioners shows that from a patient safety, governance, quality of care basis we were the better option.
“The decision is hugely disappointing for staff who have worked incredibly hard for years to provide a service that we are all incredibly proud of.
“We have had staff in tears at the news as they know what the implications of this move could mean for patients as well as their own jobs.”
Staff and the ambulance workers’ union have also raised concerns about the impact the decision will have on the quality of patient care.
One Kidderminster ambulance worker, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “We were called in to a meeting on Friday to be told that the contract has gone to someone else. We’re all shell-shocked.
“WMAS had an outstanding review from the CQC and have been doing a great job, reaching targets, so it must be a purely financial decision and nothing to do with patient care.
“They’re compromising on patient care to save a few pennies. It’s not right. Everybody knows and trusts WMAS.
“We’ve been told staff contracts will transfer over to the new company but it’s not that straightforward. We won’t be working out of the same place for one, our NHS pensions will be frozen and some people don’t want to work for a private company. It’s a very uncertain time.
“I really love this job and I see the difference we make to people’s lives every day but that will suffer if the people above our heads start cutting corners.”
Becky Dalton, from UNISON trade union, added: “We are aware of the situation and are extremely concerned about patient safety and the continuity of care. It is paramount to us that this continues.
“As far as we are aware, workers jobs are safe and should transfer across to the new company.”
She said the union would be meeting with WMAS later this week.
A spokesman for Worcestershire CCGs would not confirm the recipient of the new contract, but said that it would be awarded “based on comprehensive evaluation scoring and interviews, with a focus on ensuring patient safety remains a priority”.
The new contract is due to begin on 1st April 2020.