Ambulance problems meant sick patients had hospital appointments cancelled

The East of England Ambulance service was criticised by a union rep

The East of England Ambulance service was criticised by a union rep - Credit: Archant

Sick patients had appointments cancelled by the ambulance service due to a lack of vehicles, according to claims made by a union representative to an NHS boss.

An e-mail from April 2018 to the then chief executive of the East of England Ambulance Service Trust, Robert Morton, from a union rep claimed that one worker was told not to take a cancer patient to Peterborough City Hospital for treatment because there was not a suitable vehicle to take her back home after the appointment.

He refused and took her to hospital.

The EEAST has the contract to run non-emergency Patient Transport Services (PTS) in Cambridgeshire for patients who would not be able to get to hospital otherwise, but there have been problems with the contract.

The letter from the union rep said that they were aware of other examples in Cambridgeshire where patients had appointments cancelled because control room told drivers they did not have enough resources.

The rep wrote: "I cannot believe that a manager would seriously think it appropriate or justifiable to send a cancer patient in pain and distress back home."

They added they had their own case where a patient's transport to get treatment for a brain injury was cancelled.

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"The patient's wife was extremely angry as she said that she had travelled 20 miles to escort him and this was the fourth time he had appointments cancelled," he wrote.

"These are very sick patients and control seems to be indifferent to it. We on the road have to face these patients and try and explain why they cannot have their treatment."

An ambulance spokesman said areas of improvement had been identified in PTS and action taken since the e-mail was sent.

They said: "Our interim chief executive, Dorothy Hosein, identified timeliness of patient transport as a priority, focusing on those patients where their care related to cancer, renal dialysis or at the end of their life."

A spokesman for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said: "The CCG carefully monitors performance, and since the system-wide plan was put in place there has been an improvement in performance."

Problems have also been reported with the PTS in Suffolk where it is run by a private provider called E-zec.