PERFORMANCE: Clinical commissioning groups in Kent and Medway may be forced to continue using a patient transport service that is failing to hit its targets because of the terms of its contract.

As previously reported by HSJ, the CCGs have had concerns about the performance of NSL Care, which operates the service.

At a health, overview and scrutiny committee meeting in Kent last week West Kent CCG’s accountable officer Ian Ayres said the service “has not improved and it is not at the standard we want it to be”.

He said the CCGs would “probably” have the basis to terminate the contract early because of a breach of the agreement through NSL’s poor performance.

However, he added that it was “almost certain” that if the contract was terminated early there would be a legal challenge from the firm.

Mr Ayres said the contract had “one or two penalty clauses” but these were not enough to ensure NSL made improvements. There was also no alternative provider that could take over the service at short notice.

He said: “It would be nice but unreal to be able to say to them goodbye today and bring in someone else tomorrow.

“There are no other providers out there of the scale and size who could come in and take over the Kent and Medway service with immediate notice.”

The CCGs and local acute trusts are now discussing what action to take and will make a decision next month.

A spokeswoman for NSL said they will “continue to work very closely with commissioners and trusts in tackling some of the broader issues impacting on the patient transport service”.

She added: “Some of these issues are systemic, in that they are part and parcel of working with many and diverse points of care, which require an ongoing close and collaborative approach.”