• Coperforma to be dissolved in next two months
  • Firm handed back patient transport services contract after seven months in 2016
  • Companies House says assets will become property of the Crown

A company that was heavily criticised over a shambolic patient transport services contract in Sussex is to be dissolved, Companies House has confirmed.

Coperforma, based in Hampshire, won a contract from Sussex clinical commissioning groups to run the services in the county from April 2016. It promised a new model where it would act as a managed service provider, coordinating several small private ambulance firms and volunteers.

Within weeks the service ran into difficulties with subcontractors going into administration and complaints that patients were not being picked up on time. After seven months, it agreed to hand back the contract and the service was taken over by South Central Ambulance Service Foundation Trust in a phased transition.

Legal steps began last week to dissolve the company and strike it off the Companies House register with any assets going to the Crown. The company’s email system is no longer working and telephone callers to the business centre where it had offices were told it was no longer trading.

The company’s entry on the Companies House website said Coperforma will be struck off in two months unless “cause is shown to the contrary”. In August, a petition to wind up Coperforma was lodged in Reading county court by UK Ambulances Sales, which claimed to be owed tens of thousands of pounds by the company. It is not known if this petition has been heard.

A statement from Companies House said: “We are taking action against Coperforma because they were late filing their confirmation statement – due 1 October 2017.

“We have written to the company on several occasions, reminding them to file their confirmation statement but to date we’ve not received a response. A notice has now been published in the London Gazette, notifying the company and any interested parties that unless the company bring their filing records up to date or we receive any objections to the strike off, the company will be struck off in approximately two months’ time. If the company files up to date at any point in the next two months, all compliance action will cease and the company status will revert to active.

“If we do strike the company off the register and dissolve it, all the assets of the company, including its bank account and property, generally become the property of the Crown. This is dependent on individual circumstances – ie: whether the company has any assets or credit balance in their company account at the time of the dissolution.”

Problems with the Sussex service meant hospital trusts incurred significant extra costs in using alternative transport to get patients home. CCGs had to step in to keep services operating when one of the ambulance operators ceased trading and paid staff wages for several months, incurring costs of £642,000. Lead commissioner High Weald Lewes Havens CCG was seeking to recover this.

When the £16m-a-year contract was tendered, Coperforma was the only bidder. The contract specified an unusual model in which the organisation and booking of the service was separate from the provision of ambulances and crews. This discouraged other potential bidders but matched Coperforma’s business model.

The company previously held contracts with Hampshire Hospitals Foundation Trust and briefly with Barts Health Trust. Its website says it “specialises in transforming hospital transport for NHS customers to deliver the service that they aspire to and their patients and clinical staff deserve” using a “unique technology” that schedules journeys in real time.