Arriva took over the non-emergency ambulance service across Greater Manchester in April 2013 and at the time, Lucy raised concerns about privatising part of the NHS.
Since they took over, she has been contacted by many patients about the extremely poor services they’ve received. Lucy raised these concerns regularly with both Arriva themselves and with the CCG responsible, and despite bosses insisting the service had improved, the number of constituents who’ve complained to Lucy about the company has remained consistently high throughout the duration of their contract.
Lucy’s raised the cases of constituents who’ve been left waiting for an ambulance for up to 8 hours, often missing important hospital appointments and suffering prolonged anxiety and distress as a consequence.
Yesterday it was announced that Arriva have pulled out of the bidding for the contract, which is due to be renewed, and will have to pay back £1.5m in bonuses after admitting they had misreported performance standards.
I believe that this turn of events shows that the concerns that I and other MPs across Greater Manchester expressed about the awarding of this contract to such an inappropriate private provider were justified.
The lessons of what went wrong with the awarding of this contract to ATSL must be learnt, especially as a new tendering process to determine who will take over from ATSL is nearly complete.
One obvious lesson is that in future the monitoring of performance of contracts such as these must carried out independently, rather than by the provider of the service themselves.
It is clear that having ASTL monitor their own performance was open to abuse, as the company had a financial incentive to present positive performance data to the CCG.
And far from improving standards in the NHS, fragmentation of services in this way actually leads to greater inefficiency and worse outcomes for patients.
Lucy has today written to the CCG responsible for the new tendering process to raise concerns about the procedure and to ask that a full investigation takes place. She has insisted that, from now on, the CCG itself should be independently responsible for monitoring the performance of the provider, and that measures must be taken to ensure the mistakes are not repeated when the contract is taken over by a new provider in six weeks’ time.