A consultant and lead nurse have expressed their sympathy after dialysis patients were hit by long delays getting to hospital.
Renal consultant Dr Victoria Ingham and Angela Cole, lead nurse in dialysis at Sussex Kidney Unit at Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals Trust have written to patients to urge them to keep coming for treatment despite the difficult transport arrangements.
Coperforma took over the running of the patient transport service on April 1 from South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SECAmb).
But patients have complained after non-emergency ambulances failed to pick them up on time for their appointments with some waiting more than five hours.
The letter said: “This week transport problems may have caused you a great deal of inconvenience and anxiety.
“As we work closely with transport providers, and the local commissioners of the service, please accept our sympathy for this poor experience and whole-hearted assurance that we are applying all our influence to find improvements.”
Staff at the Royal Sussex County Hospital are urging patients to continue coming to hospital for dialysis – despite the delays – to keep them ‘well and alive’.
The letter adds: “We are arranging for private taxis and ambulances to come and get your if your usual transport system fails, so please call your unit if someone does not pick you up.”
Gavin Muggeridge, of Busticle Lane, Sompting said his friend, a 78-year-old man who needs blood transfusions – spent last week phoning the company, only to be put on hold – which he said cost £6 every time.
Mr Muggeridge added: “Hospitals are under enough pressure and don’t need this appalling situation.”
Last week the Royal Sussex County Hospital organised taxis for patients and paying overtime for staff needed to help patients delayed by the transport issues.
Coperforma said it ‘apologises unreservedly’ to patients and ‘remains extremely concerned about the ‘impact and anxiety caused to all patients’.
A spokesman for the company said it is working ‘flat out’ to deliver solutions with Sussex CCGs.
Michael Clayton, CEO of Coperforma said: “Detailed contingency plans were in place at handover, agreed with the CCGs, to manage the risk of the journey volume being higher than expected as is common with contracts of this type.
“Measures included an additional ‘overlay’ team based in Sussex and extra vehicles on standby to meet journey volume requirements.”
He added: “Despite these detailed plans a number of disruptive factors combined at the start of the new service to create a number of additional challenges with high impact on our ability to deliver the service.”
The company said ‘immediate steps’ were taken to address the issues, including 18 extra experienced staff being drafted in to the demand centre with further staff coming on stream once trained.
Patients have been asked to book their transport no earlier than 48 hours prior to their appointment.
Gary Palmer, organiser for the GMB union, which respresents staff that have crossed over from SECAmb to Coperforma, said the transfer of services was ‘rushed and disjointed’ and left the GMB in ‘no doubt things were going to be ready for either patients or staff’.
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