• Ambulance trust agreed to step in only if it received longer term contract
  • Followed private provider going into administration
  • Resulted in halt of two patient transport services procurements

A two year patient transport contract was awarded to an ambulance trust, after it said it would not otherwise be able to provide short term support, it has emerged.

It meant that four clinical commissioning groups - East and North Hertfordshire, Herts Valley, Luton and Bedfordshire - had to cancel ongoing procurements for the service.

The CCGs were left without a patient transport service last October after the incumbent provider went into administration. They had been running PTS procurements in two groups –Luton with Bedfordshire and the two Herts CCGs.

A Bedfordshire CCG January governing body paper said East of England Ambulance Service Trust stepped in on an “emergency basis” after Private Ambulance Service Ltd went into administration.

The paper said “EEAST only agreed to undertake the emergency cover on the basis that a longer term contract (not caretaker) was issued for all four CCGs affected by the collapse of PAS”.

In order to issue the long term contract in this way, the CCGs issued a legal notice known as a “voluntary ex-ante transparency” in October, which allows a contract to be awarded without open competition.

The notice stated that it was issued because of “extreme urgency brought about by events unforeseeable… [and] there is a significant risk that there will be no provision of non-emergency patient transport services across Bedfordshire, Luton and Hertfordshire jeopardising the health and well being of patients (to a potentially fatal degree). Therefore, this contract needs to be placed urgently”.

This resulted in a contract being agreed covering all four CCGs, at a value of £25.9m, over two years. The VEAT notice said services were “likely to be subcontracted”.

The CCGs’ two initial tenders had said contracts were due to last a minimum of 60 months.

A spokeswoman for EEAST said: “EEAST was requested to support the delivery of the PTS service in Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire following the collapse of Private Ambulance Services Ltd.

“There was a considerable amount of risk to EEAST in taking over a contract in such a way. In order for this risk not to impact patient care, a longer term commitment was required so that we can support staff and improve performance.”

A Bedfordshire CCG spokeswoman said: “The appropriate legal and procurement advice was sought from its appointed advisors on the basis of the issue of a voluntary ex-ante transparency notice.”

She said a market analysis was conducted from August to October 2017 and that a mandatory 10 day standstill period, in which the VEAT notice can be challenged, expired with “no enquires/challenges from the provider market”.