COMMERCIAL: A company providing non-emergency patient transport services in the South West is to have its contract cut short by two years.

NSL Care Services’ contract in Devon and Cornwall has been dogged by claims of poor performance, and will end next year rather than in 2018.

Ambulance

Some patients had been left waiting up to two hours by NSL ambulance crews

The company signed a deal with Northern Eastern and Western Devon, South Devon and Torbay, and Kernow clinical commissioning groups in October 2013 to deliver non-emergency patient transport services until 2018.

However, since the contract started the CCGs have raised concerns about NSL’s performance. Last year The Plymouth Herald reported NEW Devon had written to the company “in a final attempt” to make the contract work.

This April the Care Quality Commission published an inspection report which said the provider was failing to meet four out of the regulator’s six standards on the contract.

The CQC’s report referred to cases where patients had been left waiting for two hours by NSL ambulance crews.

In a statement this week, the CCGs said they had worked with NSL over the last 18 months “to develop and improve the service”.

They said: “During this time, all partners have been involved in discussions about the challenges we face and how we can successfully manage further service transformation.

“As a result, we have agreed with NSL to shorten the contract, which [was] due to complete in 2018.”

The groups said they were looking at “a range of options” to make sure a new provider is in place for 2016.

A copy of NSL’s latest performance report for Devon, seen by HSJ, shows performance against a number of indicators has improved in recent months.

However in March, the last month for which data is available, the company was still failing to hit key targets, with 10 per cent of patients being collected from hospital more than an hour after the agreed time.

NSL declined to comment on the news the contract would be shortened.

Last year, CCGs in Kent and Medway said they might be forced to continue using a poorly performing NSL transport service because any attempt to terminate the contract early could result in a legal challenge from the firm.

NEW Devon said it had no plans to make a payment to NSL to end the contract early.