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G4S has 'unprecedented levels' of complaints after taking over county's private ambulance service

By Jenni Horn

Security firm G4S has received “unprecedented levels” of complaints after taking over Kent and Medway’s private ambulance service, according to a report.

Medway Clinical Commissioning Group, which plans and pays for primary health services, has called for urgent action from the firm.

Its patient transport team received more than 1,700 complaints in 12 months.

G4S patient transport service
G4S patient transport service

The firm provides free, non-emergency transport for people who are unable to get to and from hospitals in Medway and Kent any other way.

It took over the £90m contract at the start of July last year, when troubled previous operators NSL opted not to seek a contract renewal.

Between July 2016 and this July, G4S received 1,774 complaints, with 1,170 of these relating to lateness of journeys for outpatient appointments.

A performance report discussed by Medway Council shows G4S has not been meeting key targets.

The council’s health overview and scrutiny committee has been told vehicles and staff are not always sufficient to meet demand.

G4S previously admitted teething problems and in March said it was mobilising more staff to deal with a greater than expected demand.

One patient reported missing an appointment she had waited a year for, while the family of a terminally ill man said he was left waiting for more than a day to be taken home from hospital.

The performance report, published by Medway CCG, said: “We are concerned about the unprecedented level of complaints regarding the service and the way in which G4S is handling and responding to complaints.”

“The commissioners sought urgent action to rectify the common themes emerging from complaints and to improve the complaints process so they are managed in a timely and professional manner.”

The CCG issued G4S with a notice to improve in July.

“We take every single complaint seriously and thoroughly investigate each concern" - Russell Hobbs

An action plan was drawn up which includes a review of the complaints policy, revising the complaints process and improving reporting and response times. Progress is being monitored and as of August 21, 60% of the actions had been completed.

The remaining actions were expected to be completed by the end of this month.

Russell Hobbs, managing director for non-emergency patient transport services at G4S, said: “We have experienced high demand for non-emergency patient transport services and have taken steps to improve patient awareness of the complaints procedure.

“In August we provided 28,681 journeys across Kent and there were 38 formal complaints raised, which represents less than 1% of the total journeys undertaken.

“We take every single complaint seriously and thoroughly investigate each concern.

“We have also improved the way we handle complaints when they are received, including training additional staff.”

Jaine Meredith-Kite of Larkfield
Jaine Meredith-Kite of Larkfield

The latest news comes after Jaine Meredith-Kite said in March that G4S needed to “get its act together” after a spate of missed appointments and long waits for a private ambulance.

The 56-year-old, who has a degenerative muscle-wasting condition, said she found getting to appointments an uphill battle since the firm took over the contract.

Her illness means she is unable to drive and barely able to walk and needs regular check ups on the condition of important muscles, including her heart.

She missed two appointments including one for a heart check-up in Rochester, something she had waited a year for.

G4S told her it didn’t have a suitable vehicle to get her from her home in Larkfield.

She was also late for another meeting and left waiting for five hours after a consultation.

Mrs Meredith-Kite said G4S had been slow to respond to complaints.

She added: “G4S is really failing to provide transport to Kent patients.

“I also feel very strongly it is inconveniencing hospital staff.
“I have heard many other patients with the same problem.”

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