MORE than 80 ambulance service staff have been left fearing for their jobs says the union Unison, after West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) lost the contract for non-emergency patient transport.
It came after the Worcestershire clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) of local doctors awarded the service to private firm E-zec Medical Transport.
Unison said this was in spite of the fact WMAS had run the service for 30 years and received an outstanding Care Quality Commission review.
So far E-zec, which currently runs the non-emergency ambulance transport service for Herefordshire CCG, has not confirmed if it will keep the current stations in Kidderminster, Bromsgrove and Worcester.
Unison also says a question marks hang over the pensions and terms and conditions off the affected staff.
The union’s 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 have been in tears since the announcement and are devastated that the decision may affect patient care and their livelihoods.”
A spokesperson for the Herefordshire and Worcestershire CCGs said: “We started a procurement process in October 2018 to identify a provider of non-emergency patient transport services (NEPTS) from April 1, 2020 as the contract with the current provider was coming to an end.
“The procurement process was robust to ensure the new provider is able to deliver against the contract’s quality and performance requirements.
“The process was weighted on patient quality and safety over financial considerations.
“The new provider has been operating safely and effectively in Herefordshire for the past four years and the CCGs are satisfied they meet all requirements for patient safety and will deliver a high standard for patients in Worcestershire.”
Lynn Denham, Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Worcester, has accused the government of ‘putting ideology and austerity before patient safety’ by introducing the tendering process.
Coun Denham said: “West Midlands Ambulance Service have an excellent Care Quality Commission rating and record of service delivery across Worcestershire for over 20 years.
“It is appalling that the Tory/Lib Dem coalition government changed the law in 2012 and has forced the patient transport service to be put out to tender.
“This is putting ideology and austerity before patient safety. Our NHS shouldn’t just be sold off to the cheapest bidder.”