Praise for running of non-emergency passenger transport by EEAS in Hertfordshire

EEAS took over the service for an ’emergency’ period following the collapse of the private sector provider
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Councillors have praised the running of the non-emergency passenger transport service – despite some reports of lengthy delays and missed appointments.

The service is designed to take eligible patients to and from medical appointments, transfer patients between hospitals and take them home after discharge.

Since the collapse of a private sector provider in 2017, it has been operated by the East of England Ambulance Service.

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And on Wednesday (March 4) Adrian Manning, contract manager for Herts Valleys CCG, reported on the service to a meeting of the county’s Health Scrutiny Committee.

He said taking over the contract at short notice had been “a challenge” for EEAS.

But he said it has now stabilised and that there had been “significant improvements”.

He said that since April 2019 staff turnover was just 6.09 per cent – with the vast majority of those leaving (69 per cent) doing so to move on to the emergency service side.

And he said the number of complaints about the transport service had reduced – with just 203 complaints received from 136,690 patient journeys.

That’s the equivalent of one complaint for every .14 per cent of journeys.

The most common case of complaint, he told councillors, is delay.

And Labour Cllr Margaret Eames-Petersen pointed to a number of cases she knew of where delays had caused distress or disruption.

In one case she highlighted an 80-year-old patient who had been ‘very anxious’, having to wait eight hours – from 11am to 7pm.

In another she pointed to a patient who had missed an endoscopy appointment – where staff had been waiting – because the transport was so late.

And in the third she highlighted a patient who had been due to have chemotherapy on a Sunday – but no transport was sent.

Mr Manning said he could not comment on specific cases. But said that certain journeys were prioritised – such as ‘end of life’ patients and renal dialysis.

And he said some delays in the system were caused by staff taking steps to settle patients when they arrived at home.

He said that when staff found vulnerable patients would be on their own and felt anxious, they may even make them a cup of tea and make sure they felt settled before leaving.

Conservative Cllr Dave Hewitt said he admired the way EEAS had gone from zero to 60mph after taking over and that he appreciated the efforts that had been made.

And Liberal Democrat vice chair of the committee Cllr Chris White said councillors needed to remember where the service had come from.

He said the service had been “unsatisfactory” – and suggested it has been a mistake to move away from EEAS.

“We are back where we should be and seeing a very positive story,” he said.

He said the service had turnaround “extremely well”, that staff turnover figures were now “amazing” and that satisfaction levels were “extremely high”.

Steve Palmer, from Healthwatch, said their own survey of around 4,500 service users had been positive – highlighting helpful drivers and the steps taken to settle people in their homes.

But he said that while people had been largely positive about the service, there had been some concerns about access to it.

EEAS took over the service for an ’emergency’ period following the collapse of the private sector provider in September 2017.

A formal two two-year contract was agreed, starting in January 2018. And that has been extended to the end of March 2021.

The service is commissioned jointly by four clinical commissioning groups (CCGS). They are Herts Valleys CCG, East & North Herts CCG, Luton CCG and Bedford CCG.

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