Lincolnshire

Thames Ambulance Service apologises for poor performance

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Thames Ambulance Service apologised to patients and staff in Lincolnshire for its poor performance.

Interim manager Mike Casey said the firm made a formal apology to volunteer drivers when appearing before the health scrutiny panel for Lincolnshire on February 21.

Casey said the company made “assumptions” on how volunteer drivers were performing and that “snap decisions” were made on changing parts of their roles.

“On reflection, I don’t think as an organisation that we were fully sighted on what those individuals brought to the service,” he said.

“I think since the introduction of the new management team, I certainly recognise the importance of what those individuals bring to the role.

“From my point of view, it is absolutely critical that we have these people working for us.”

Non Emergency Patient Transport Vehicles used by Thames Ambulance Service Limited

Thames brought in a number of alterations to driver’s roles including a change in mileage payments, uniform costs and requiring vehicles to be under five years old.

Since the changes were made in November 2017, the number of volunteer drivers working for Thames in Lincolnshire dropped from 100 drivers to 50.

Casey added that he hoped the apology would go “some way” to getting some of the volunteer drivers back.

Thames Ambulance Service won the contract from Lincolnshire West CCG to provide non-emergency transport in the county in July 2016.

Complaints from both staff and patients using Thames forced the CCG to implement a remedial action plan at the company in order to improve its performance.

These included patients waiting as long as four hours to be picked up from hospital, people being late to appointments and users of Thames not knowing how to lodge formal complaints to the company.

The performance indicators for Thames Ambulance Service presented to the health scrutiny panel.

The health scrutiny panel heard that the service only improved in just one of the performance indicators included in the action plan.

Casey recognised the poor performance and said “significant improvements need to be made.”

After the meeting, Casey was confident that Thames Ambulance can deliver non-emergency transport for Lincolnshire and that the company’s new chief executive will help deliver the service.

“I am more assured with the support we have had from our investors,” he said.

“I am absolutely assured by the person we have got coming in as the new chief executive — he brings a wealth of knowledge from the ambulance service both in the private and public sector.”

Derek Laird, former commercial director of West Midlands Ambulance Service, will take over as chief executive of Thames Ambulance Service from March 5.

He said: “It is clear that we have had our difficulties, however I am confident, with an excellent and committed team, progress is being made and the quality of service we provide to patients will continue to improve.”

Laird is also introducing a recovery action plan to improve the service.

Casey said he would share that plan with councillors on the health scrutiny panel when it is published on February 23.

He added that he would like to apologise to patients for the poor service that Thames Ambulance has offered to the people of Lincolnshire.

“I would like to apologise for the service that has been given so far through this contract,” he said.

“Driving forward the changes we have made to the organisation, both in terms of the management structure, the governance structure and service delivery, we will get this right.”

The health scrutiny panel asked Thames to return in two months with an update on the service’s performance.