Patients blast ambulance service run by bus company

Bury Times: A non-emergency ambulance alongside a traditional emergency ambulance A non-emergency ambulance alongside a traditional emergency ambulance

Angry patients who use non-emergency ambulances to travel to hospital appointments have hit out at the service.

Arriva Transport Solutions (ATS), who won a contract last year to provide the journeys across Greater Manchester previously delivered by the North West Ambulance Service, were criticised at a public meeting called by Healthwatch Bury on Monday.

The meeting heard that a woman, who was described as “profoundly disabled”, had missed a hospital appointment because the driver had left without her after he received no response after knocking on the door.

Due to her disabilities, she was not able to reach the door in time, and could not shout to indicate to the driver that she was on her way.

Hilary Brown, of Bury Coalition for Independent Living, told the meeting: “She received a nasty letter from the hospital because she had missed her appointment.

“She missed her appointment because she failed to get to the door quick enough. That lady was desperately upset. We had to calm her down and say it wasn’t her fault.”

ATS bosses were asked whether drivers had any knowledge of the people they were taking to the hospital.

In reply, Frank Nightingale, ATS operations manager, said that 95 per cent of staff were “still the old North West Ambulance Service staff”.

He added: “Staff are mindful they have got appointments to keep.

“They are not doing single transfers, they are travelling with a number of other people.”

The meeting also heard that John Nuttall, aged 89, had experienced problems with the service on three separate occasions.

Prior to a hospital appointment at Salford Royal in January, his ambulance transport had not arrived and so Arriva sent a taxi. He arrived at the hospital at 4pm for an appointment that had been scheduled for 11am.

When he arrived at the hospital he was told the appointment could not be dealt with as it was too late.

Mr Nuttall, from Ainsworth, told the meeting: “I have used hospital transport for a number of years. When they say they are coming for you and they don’t, things are clearly not working properly.

“We have to get to hospital because we need to, not just because we want to. It is soul destroying when it happens a number of times in a month.”

In response to Mr Nuttall, Asiya Jelani, head of communications and engagement for ATS, said: “We absolutely need to know what is happening. We have clearly let you down and I don’t know the reason why.

“Once I can almost imagine, but three times suggests that something more serious is happening.”

The Bury Times also previously reported on cancer patient Susan Kay, who criticised Arriva for being hours late for her appointments last April while she was travelling to The Christie hospital in Manchester for treatment.

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