• Barts Health Trust brings patient transport contract in house
  • American owned firm stopped providing the service
  • London North West Healthcare Trust affected by collapse of PAS

London hospital trusts have been forced to bring patient transport services in house or re-tender them as incumbent firms exit the market.

Barts Health Trust in east London has confirmed it is bringing its patient transport contract in house after provider ERS stopped providing the service. ERS is owned by American firm SRCL and also ran services across the east of England and Yorkshire.

The company had been running the service since July 2014. In its most recent board papers, the trust said its in house provision, which began in October, was cheaper.

London North West Healthcare Trust, which serves a population of more than 700,000 people from three hospital sites in outer London, was hit by the collapse of Essex based firm Private Ambulance Service last month.

The company employed more than 300 staff and also served Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire as well as the Royal Brompton and Harefield Hospitals Foundation Trust.

Private Ambulance Service was providing non-emergency patient transport to LNWH since February 2016, having won a five year contract from a framework set up by the London Procurement Partnership.

The NHS patient transport market in London is thought to be worth more than £50m a year. 

Yvonne Smith, the trust’s head of facilities, said in her November board report that over the summer the trust received complaints about overlong waiting times and the time patients spent in vehicles.

She said: “On 28 September 2017, the trust was notified that PAS would cease trading on 1 October and that HM Revenue and Customs had filed proceedings for PAS to be put into administration. This situation had a significant impact on the healthcare sector.”

Bears ATL Healthcare LLC stepped in and provided a team leader role on each hospital site plus a 24/7 phoneline for patients and the trust.

The report said the London Procurement Partnership was looking to complete a new patient transport framework agreement later this month.

Ms Smith said: “Owing to the extraordinary circumstances currently being experienced in the market, following the departure of Private Ambulance Service and a market that is somewhat fragmented, the trust and commissioners do need to consider if this may lead to a diseconomy of scale and an elevation of price.”

She said she was aware of other trusts looking to tender out this service and that Imperial College Healthcare Trust was midway through a procurement exercise, due to start in July 2018.

Patient transport services have proved contentious this year, with the Care Quality Commission raising concerns about the operation of a large contract in Sussex.

Similar services saw a pay dispute in Hull in May.