THE private firm that took over Dorset’s non-emergency patient transport last year has been told to improve in four out of five areas in a damning report.
E-zec Medical Transport Dorset was awarded the deal by the NHS Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) last June and began operating, replacing South Western Ambulance Service, in October.
It provides patient transport to more than 100 NHS treatment centres, including Bournemouth and Poole hospitals.
But a new report published by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) said that E-zec had “not been able to put in place sufficient staff and vehicles to deliver the service to the required standard”.
It also levelled criticism at the Dorset CCG, which awarded the contract, saying that it had not given E-zec accurate information on the workload.
The inspection was carried out in response to concerns from the public and health professionals, the CQC said.
The Daily Echo has previously reported patients’ worries.
Some said lives were being put at risk by E-zec being late or not turning up to transport people to crucial appointments for treatments like radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
E-zec declined the Daily Echo’s request for an interview and issued only a brief statement.
Paul Swann, managing director of E-zec Medical Transport Services Limited, said: “We fully accept the finding of the report and are working with NHS Dorset CCG to meet the CQC’s recommendations.”
The firm refused to comment any further.
Jane Pike, director of service delivery at NHS Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We recognise the point raised in the Care Quality Commission report regarding incorrect information on the number of pick-ups given to E-zec Medical during the tender process.
“The data we used to inform the tender document was provided to us from various local health and transport organisations.
“Every effort was made to gather and check the information, however the inaccuracies happened because of inconsistencies in the way that data had been recorded by the organisations who supplied it to us and as a result, it under-estimated demand and need for the service.
“We apologise for this oversight and continue to work closely with E-zec Medical to make improvements to the service, including monitoring staffing levels and the delivery of new vehicles which are joining the fleet this week.”
•Report finds issues with four areas
THE CQC report said that E-zec had “significant issues regarding planning and delivering their patient transport service to people resulting in very late pick-ups, missed pick-ups and late and missed collections of vulnerable people who used the service”.
It also said there were concerns about E-zec’s recruitment processes, information technology security and its complaint process.
The inspection took two days and involved speaking with a variety of E-zec’s staff, from directors to call centre operators and ambulance crew members, as well as service users.
The report also remarked that E-zec had “not been given accurate information during the tendering process regarding the number of pick-ups required each day or the size of the service”, which meant that it “had not been able to put in place sufficient staff and vehicles to deliver the service to the required standard”.
Overall, E-zec was told to make improvements in four areas – care and welfare of people who use services, requirements relating to workers, staffing and complaints.
The only area where standards were met was in records.
• Patients unsurprised by the investigation
PATIENT William Bownes, known as Dennis, says he was not surprised by the damning report.
Dennis, who needs dialysis treatment three times a week after suffering kidney failure in 2008, was regularly kept waiting for the E-zec Medical Transport Services ambulance.
He said: “The service has improved lately and you do see more vans around now, but sometimes there are still delays.”
Just two weeks ago the 72-year-old, who suffered a stroke three years ago and struggles to speak, had to be taken by his family to the renal unit for treatment as the transport didn’t turn up.
He then had to wait for his family to arrange transport back to his home in Southbourne because the second ambulance had been cancelled.
Mr Bownes added: “I’m not surprised by the report, I’m only surprised it hasn’t come to light before now.”
Simon Moss, Unison branch secretary for the South Western Ambulance Service, said there were many areas of concern in the report: “One of the main areas was the lack of pre-employment checks. E-zec were using agency staff that hadn’t had criminal checks which is very concerning when they are picking up vulnerable patients.
“The other issue was the workload – crews were not given time to have breaks because E-zec seriously under-estimated the workload.
“Now they have gone cap in hand to the Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group for more money – paid for by local taxpayers – when the reason they won the contract in the first place was because they were the most competitively priced.”