The Care Quality Commission has said it will continue to monitor patient transport services in Sussex while the service is in transition.
CQC has today published a full report on the service provided by Coperforma Ltd following an inspection in July.
After a series of complaints from patients and relatives CQC inspectors carried out an unannounced inspection of the organisation’s main centre at Thruxton Down, Andover, Hampshire.
Subsequently CQC told Coperforma Demand Management Centre that it must sustain significant improvements to NHS patient transport services in Sussex.
CQC served six requirement notices to the service to ensure improvements are undertaken.
Coperforma Ltd is an independent organisation which manages patient transport service for patients in Hampshire, London and Sussex. Coperforma manages transport between the patients’ home and hospital. The service does not have a fleet of vehicles, but operates by subcontracting the transportation of patients to a number of transport service providers. The company took over the contract to provide patient transport services in Sussex in April 2016.
Professor Edward Baker, Deputy Chief Inspector in the South said: "The new patient transport service provided by Coperforma got off to an unacceptably poor start. In the first three months, CQC received 52 complaints which raised a number of concerns which included delays in pickups, cancellations without notification, inappropriate vehicles dispatched, vehicles not arriving leading to missed appointments and difficulties in getting through to the control centre. The commissioners were rightly concerned about the implications for patient safety.
"Although they do not provide the vehicles directly – they do have responsibility for managing the service, and ensuring that subcontractors provide a service which is safe, effective and reliable. Our inspection highlighted significant concerns about the provider’s oversight of this service.
"Since the time of the inspection Coperforma Ltd has taken steps to work with the local Clinical Commissioning Group, providing an action plan to address the issues we have raised. The service sourced additional vehicles to manage the operational difficulties and to deal with the variations in demand at peak times. I note that in response to a particular area of concern the provider has set up a dedicated renal team to manage those patients.
"We have seen evidence that since the summer the provider has made significant improvements in performance. Surveys appear to show a much higher degree of patient satisfaction.
"It is essential that people in Sussex have a patient transport service which they can rely on to get them to their hospital appointments safely and on time.
"During this transition period we will continue to monitor the service closely. If we find the required progress is not sustained we will consider using our legal powers to protect the people who use the services."
Inspectors found that some services were planned and delivered in a way that met the needs of local population. But because patient transport was not reliable and timely some patients could not access services for assessment, diagnosis or treatment when they needed to. The service had developed and introduced a number of initiatives to improve access.
Although the service had a system in place for reporting incidents, the learning and action points from incidents and complaints were not disseminated to staff. The service did not have a robust system for handling complaints.
Systems and processes were not always reliable and appropriate to keep patients safe. Vehicles and equipment used by transport providers were not always safe and appropriate.
Patients were treated with respect and kindness. Staff explained the care and treatment they needed appropriately for each patient so they understood.
The report lists 11 areas for improvement including:
- The provider must ensure a robust system is in place for handling, managing and monitoring complaints and concerns.
- There must be robust systems in place to assess, monitor and improve the quality and safety of the services provided.
- The vehicles and equipment used by contracted services must be appropriate for safe transportation of patients, including wheelchair users.
- Patients must receive timely transport services so they can access the health services they need from other providers.
- A manager must be registered with CQC.
- CQC must be notified of safeguarding incidents and incidents affecting the running of the service.
For further information please contact CQC Regional Engagement Manager John Scott on 07789 875809 or, for media enquiries, call the press office on 020 7448 9401 during office hours.
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