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GMB Slams Sussex CCG for "Publicity Stunt" Targets

Monday, June 13, 2016
GMB Slams Sussex CCG's New Target For Coperforma As Nothing More Than A Publicity Stunt For Failed Sussex Transport Service

The reason for the absolute chaos still occurring on a daily basis in patient transport services in Sussex is apparent to everyone but Wendy Carberry and the CCG says GMB

GMB today called for public substantiation of recent performance figures and targets provided by High Weald and Lewes Haven Clinical Commissioners’ Group for patient transport service provider Coperforma. (See notes to editors for previous GMB press releases on Sussex patient transport services).

The Clinical Commissioners’ Group (CCG) claims that Coperforma are completing roughly 87% of patient journeys within the targeted times in Sussex, a figure only 8% short of the CCG’s 95% target. However, the group has so far provided no data for the number of incomplete patient journeys or the number of patients whose transport has arrived either late or not at all.

Despite confirming the existence of a ‘plan B’ for patient transport services the  CCG is yet to announce details of the plan other than to confirm that it has not approached any alternative providers.

Gary Palmer, GMB regional organiser, said “How the CCG can claim that currently 87% of patients are reaching their appointment times within the required scheduled 15 minute window is beyond me.

Since the start of this ill-fated privatisation 10 weeks ago, we’ve heard horror stories almost every day of the effect Coperforma’s failures have had on the patients in Sussex. Most patients I’ve spoken to would have been glad to have arrived 115 minutes as it would have been an improvement on their previous Coperforma experiences.

The reason for the absolute chaos still occurring on a daily basis in patient transport services in Sussex is apparent to everyone but the CCG and Wendy Carberry. I find it almost impossible to believe that Coperforma are only required to find an 8% improvement to hit service delivery requirements.

GMB members working either directly for Coperforma or sub-contractor Ambulance providers, Thames Ambulance or VM Langfords are telling us they don’t see the same positive service delivery that the CCG describe.

With the CCG claiming that they have been monitoring and reviewing the situation on a daily basis, it’s a fair request from GMB and the public that there be full disclosure of everything involved with this ill-fated fiasco, including who is to blame. When will the excuses stop and a safe, reliable and efficient service begin for the people of Sussex and importantly when can we expect the details of plan ‘B’?

Claiming patient confidentiality as the reason for being unable to produce simple figures on patient pick-ups and drop offs which fall outside target times is disappointing, and smacks of a cover up.

This sudden burst of PR from the CCG – including the announcement that Coperforma are to invest in additional resources at their own expense to cover shortfalls – leads us to believe that this is actually nothing more than preparation for a re-branding exercise for the new launch of part 2 of the Sussex Coperforma experience on July 1st.”


Contact: Gary Palmer on 07552165950 or GMB press office on 07970 863411 or 07739 182691

Notes to editors

1 copy of GMB press release dated Friday, May 6, 2016

Sussex CCG Must Act Now As Staff Continue To Leave Over Coperforma Patient Transport Service Failings

The CCGs are ultimately responsible for this on-going fiasco as Coperfoma is never going to be able to come clean and admit it can’t cope says GMB.

Bullying, a lack of breaks and enforcing additional hours are the latest tools used by Coperforma in a last ditch attempt to halt the continued failings in the delivery of patient transport services in Sussex. GMB members have reported being pressured into taking on extra shifts and having their working rotas changed at short notice to make up for serious under staffing.

The result of which is that both the staff transferred from SECAmb and Coperforma’s own temporary staff continue to leave as they realise that the company remains clueless on how to resolve issues around its joint operation centres at Eastbourne and Thruxton. Many issues have been caused by the company’s underperforming software, which can result in systems working against each other.

Members and staff continue to see communication failings and the use of personal mobile phones and pen and paper by staff is increasingly becoming the norm as staff turn away from the Coperforma ‘Watson’ service delivery model as it continues to crash several times a day, unable to keep up with demand. The problem is further exacerbated a management team who are unable to implement contingency plans when the planning and automatic dispatch system fails.

Staff constantly have to tell patients an ambulance is on its way knowing that they either won’t get through to that vehicle’s crew for hours to inform it where to go or that it will never be sent in the first place as minimal resources are directed by an automated inflexible system to the collection of patients who have often already missed their appointments or worse remain un-deployed for hours on end.

Gary Palmer, GMB Regional Organiser, says “Staffing levels are now dangerously low and often it’s only through the goodwill, professionalism and ingenuity of the experienced staff transferred from SECAmb and the willingness of temporary workers that Sussex receives any type of patient transport service at all.

How do Coperforma repay them for this commitment? Through the use of bullying and pressure to get staff to work longer, not take breaks and accept rota changes at short or no notice, to keep manning levels up and calls answered. Management often tell staff that should they choose not to stay on or work extra hours and shifts it is they who will be placing patients at risk, not Coperforma’s dogged perseverance with technology that’s clearly not up to the task being the cause of the on-going detriment that patients and hospital departments find themselves with.

Training has now become a try it and see arrangement amongst the staff with successes and failures being passed around the office by word of mouth, with the phrase fire fighting becoming used on a daily basis.

The dispatching of vehicles to collect and deliver patients, which still consistently fail to arrive on time or at all, is being further damaged by management blocking staff from allocating vital work to crews. Instead they are being used to answer patient calls to boost call taking percentages in the hope of improving their public image locally and their reports to the CCGs. As a result, patients are being left high and dry and potentially, in the case of patients with renal problems, at serious risk to their health.

The CCGs are ultimately responsible for this on-going fiasco as Coperfoma is never going to be able to come clean and admit it can’t cope. The CCG must act and act now to protect Sussex patients and services alike. Simply sitting back and waiting for some distance investigation outcome of the whole disaster in the hope that in the meantime Coperforma might fluke a service improvement to negate their initial tendering process errors is not acceptable.

I personally think that everyone should write to the CCG and their GPs to call for the service to be returned to SECAmb, even if only on a temporary basis, to try to get patients services back on track and commence a new tendering process and to encourage the previous NHS provider to make a bid for the service.”


2 GMB press release dated Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Coperforma End Consultation And Negotiation With GMB For Standing Up For Patient Safety And Protecting Members’ Terms And Conditions

We will not sit back and simply ignore this direct attack on members says GMB.

Coperforma has confirmed that they will end all private consultation and negotiation with GMB following the outsourcing of patient transport services in Sussex on 1st April 2016.

As part of a four year contract to provide patient transport services, GMB members have transferred to Coperforma from their old employer, South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb). However, unlike SECamb, Coperforma has made the decision not to recognise GMB, meaning they will no longer enter into consultation with the union.

Gary Palmer, GMB Organiser, says “On behalf of our members, GMB has raised issue after issue with Coperforma over their lack of planning, engagement and openness with staff, even when it was made clear that doing so would affect our relationship with them. It’s what we do, and it’s based on looking after our member’s rights during any TUPE transfer process, something that any professional employer looking to create a welcoming work environment, with nothing to hide, would value.

Since the transfer we have found ourselves supporting members through anger and frustration brought about by Coperforma’s failing new smartphone app and deployment system, which has left patients uncollected and staff undeployed on numerous occasions.

As a result of this support, Coperforma has chosen to retaliate by de-recognising GMB and in doing so is hopeful of preventing our members from exercising their right to be part of a trade union of their choice.

We will not sit back and simply ignore this direct attack on GMB and its membership and we will look to action a response. We will continue to campaign over the coming weeks to highlight both Coperforma’s failings as a provider of NHS services and as an employer if immediate improvements do not happen and in undertaking the fight to regain union recognition for the benefit of our members and their employees.”


3 GMB press release dated Monday, March 7, 2016

GMB Welcome Sussex Patient Transport Services Contractor U-Turn On Rights For Outsourced Workers

With this announcement, VM Langfords has opened a door to engage with staff which will see a vast wealth of healthcare professionals feeling secure in the knowledge that they will continue to be protected in work says GMB.

GMB, the union for ambulance staff, has welcomed the decision by patient transport provider VM Langfords to continue meaningful talks with GMB after staff transfer to their company from South East Coast Ambulance Service on April 1st.

VM Langfords has also confirmed that they will continue to honour all changes to Agenda for Change, the pay policy currently in place for NHS staff.

The move comes after GMB warned that a dispute was only weeks away from erupting if the right of employees to determine the union that represented them wasn’t protected and if meaningful talks with GMB were not continued. See notes to editors for copies of previous GMB press releases about Patient Transport Services.

Gary Palmer, GMB regional organiser, said “GMB acknowledges that VM Langfords has made a dramatic but positive U-turn by lifting the threat to no longer recognise GMB after Friday April 1st. Equally positive has been the news that VM Langfords will now honour all national changes to Agenda for Change terms and conditions including national pay awards.

With this announcement, the company has opened a door to engage with staff which we believe will see a vast wealth of experienced healthcare professionals feeling secure in the knowledge that they will continue to be protected in work. Through membership of the union of their choice, workers will be able to turn their attention fully to ensuring the patients and public receive the best service they can possibly deliver going forward.

Since the change of tack by VM Langfords the mood at the last two staff engagement meetings has changed considerably. Information is beginning to flow through to members and staff around pensions, locations of bases, shift patterns and more, despite the fact that the decision to continue talks is yet to be finalised.

GMB will continue to petition and campaign against any move from Coperforma that stems the flow communication companies, staff and our unions. Any move which could leave our members and their staff unprotected against unfair changes to workplace practices and procedures or attacks on their terms and conditions will not be tolerated."


4 GMB press release dated Monday, February 29, 2016

Dispute Looms As GMB Reject Unreasonable Preconditions For Talks Set By New Contractors At Sussex Patient Transport Services

We have strongly expressed our concerns and questions as to why Coperforma and VM Langfords are refusing to take part in straight forward talks on the transfer says GMB.

GMB, the union for staff at Sussex Patient Transport Services (PTS), is one step nearer to a dispute with the new contractors after rejecting unreasonable preconditions for meaningful talks with them arising from the outsourcing of the service. See notes to editors for copies of previous GMB press releases on the outsourcing of this service.

Members are facing a transfer from their current NHS employer, South East Coast Ambulance Service, to private sector companies VM Langfords and Coperforma from 1st April. The companies have set preconditions for talks under the Transfer of Undertakings (Employee Protection) Regulations (TUPE) which GMB has rejected.

Gary Palmer, GMB Regional Organiser, said: “VM Langfords and Coperforma made clear that limited talks would be possible only with unions who were willing to provide a list of members to both employers and agree to take part in a presentation process regarding the union’s benefits in comparison to other unions.

This position is in stark contrast to Thames Ambulance’s having welcomed the benefit of working with GMB and of retaining union rights for those transferring.

We have strongly expressed our concerns and questions as to why Coperforma and VM Langfords are refusing to take part in straight forward talks on the transfer with GMB.

If they have nothing to hide in terms of employee engagement and working practices, they should have no fear in accepting transfer of PTS health care professionals’ personal right to determine membership of their personally preferred trade union.

As a result of recent meetings, GMB has been left in no doubt that we will not be the preferred choice for both VM Langfords and Coperforma, when transfer time comes.

GMB workplace representatives’ strong support in representation, on seeking sadly lacking, up to date information at the request of concerned members and staff, and in robustly requesting adherence in the protection of all members and transferring staff current and future employment rights under agenda for change, means we do not fit with these companies’ idea of how trade union partnership should look.

They clearly do not know GMB if they think we will parade ourselves or sell our members rights’ to GMB support in the hope of conforming to their vision of trade unions, it’s not something we do.

If this move to ignore talks with us continues, we will be left with no option other than to explore all legal, and if required industrial, avenues under instruction of our members to protect their right to remain within GMB and in their insistence to have the right to retain recognition in its current transferable form. The contractors should be in no doubt that GMB will not allow them to run a coach and horses through our members legal rights.”


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