The PTS is provided by the North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust and funded by the PCTs throughout the region. They ferry around some of the most unwell patients in our local health services.
UNISON North West held a meeting in Manchester Town Hall to launch the campaign to halt the privatisation. The overwhelming message from our public meeting was clear – the sell-off of our vital ambulance patient transport service to Arriva, when the NHS bid performed better on quality and other measures, is quite clearly the wrong decision for Manchester. Many who contributed to the discussion echoed concerns that Arriva’s operation would entail cuts in the quality of service, when the bid’s net worth was around 75% of that put forward by the Ambulance Service.
The dangers of privatisation in certain areas have been highlighted in recent years. An inquiry revealed that Serco, a private company running out of hours GP services in Cornwall, had given false data to the NHS on 252 occasions. This followed concerns that the service was so understaffed it was simply unsafe. Care home company Southern Cross collapsed in June 2011, leaving 31,000 vulnerable residents in their care facing massive uncertainty.
It is simple mathematics – the privatisation of our non-emergency ambulances will result in a 25% drop in quality. A tendering process that awards medical contracts to civilian private companies on the basis of cost and not quality is a betrayal of those who rely on the NHS to keep them safe and healthy.
Public opinion is overwhelmingly on our side. Only one in five polled by ComRes believe that privatisation has led to better quality services to the public. 81% believe that private companies either frequently or sometimes fail to meet their contractual obligations.
The Tories are letting down our healthcare professionals who work tirelessly to get around in our hours of greatest need. I hope they listen to our call to drop the plans, or we will see a clear drop in quality where it is needed most. They can’t say we didn’t warn them.
Andrew Gwynne is MP for Denton and Reddish and a Labour Shadow Health Minister.
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(This article was originally written for the Tameside Labour website.)