Apology to patients in Derbyshire over 'unacceptable' NHS transport service issues
HEALTH bosses have apologised to patients who have missed hospital appointments because of problems with the county's non-urgent ambulance service.
Last July, NSL Care Services took over a multi-million-pound contract from East Midlands Ambulance Service to provide non-emergency for patients in Derbyshire.
The NHS body in Derbyshire which pays for the service has been "working urgently" with NSL to improve its performance.
NSL admitted it had problems when it first took over the service – because it received more calls from patients than anticipated.
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Among those who complained was Paul Bennetts, who was left wheelchair-bound after his leg was amputated in June 2011. The 57-year-old visits a clinic twice a week to adjust to using a prosthetic limb and spends three days each week on a dialysis machine, after his kidneys failed two years ago.
Mr Bennetts, of Rowena Close, Alvaston, said that since November last year he had missed several appointments at the amputee centre and been late for his dialysis because the transport had turned up late – or failed to show completely.
He said: "It's incredibly frustrating because I've been going to the clinic to learn how to use the limb, so I can get back my independence.
"But, ironically, every time I miss an appointment, it means extra delays in using the limb and getting to the stage where I no longer need the transport service."
A spokeswoman for NSL said: "Our customer services manager has visited Mr Bennetts at home. Indeed, we have spoken with Mr Bennetts on a number of occasions to ensure he is satisfied with the service provided and have paid close attention to subsequent journeys."
Rakesh Marwaha, chief officer of NHS Erewash Clinical Commissioning Group, admitted there had been other problems. He said: "We do apologise that some patients using the transport service have not received the high standards of care that we expect. NHS Erewash CCG is working urgently with NSL Care Services to raise the standards of performance."
He said there had been a number of "unexpected problems" which had affected the service since July, following a change in the system for booking appointments.
Mr Marwaha said: "We apologise sincerely to all patients who have missed appointments, or are late in receiving vital treatment or therapies. We recognise that this is wholly unacceptable."
A spokesman for Derby's hospitals said: "We are aware of ongoing problems in transporting patients to and from our hospitals. We are working with the clinical commissioning group to resolve these with NSL."
The NSL spokeswoman said the complaint rate was below 1% and added: "Under the new contract, patients became responsible for booking their own transport by phone, whereas it was previously paper-based. This resulted in the volume of calls initially exceeding our planning assumptions, which resulted in difficulty making contact for bookings and queries very difficult.
"It also had an impact on the day-to-day provision of transport services. We worked diligently to resolve this by expanding the call-centre and providing additional resources.
"We continue to work closely with our NHS colleagues to ensure the service meets the set requirements."