Northamptonshire's patient transport service handed to company lambasted in every area by latest inspection

The patient transport service helps people who have difficulty travelling to meet their appointments.
The patient transport service helps people who have difficulty travelling to meet their appointments.

A service that transports Northampton's sick and elderly patients to appointments has been given to an organisation that inspectors recently found operated with dirty ambulances with "poor infection control".

A damning CQC report of Thames Ambulance Service's non-emergency patient transport (NEPT) published in April found fault after fault with the company's practices, including out of date equipment and unsecured oxygen tanks stored in overhead cupboards in moving vehicles.

But now, starting July 1, Thames will be in control of Northamptonshire's NEPT services after it was awarded the contract by Nene CCG and Corby CCG earlier this month.

The CQC report, which was published in April, says: "On one ambulance we saw discarded sweet wrappers and food on the floors and on another there was a significant amount of dirt and dust.

"[In three out of four ambulances], personal protective equipment, such as gloves and aprons, were either not available or were seen to be stored inappropriately which meant they had become dirty.

"Oxygen cylinders were placed unsecured in overhead storage cupboards. This meant here was a risk that cylinders could have fallen from height causing injury to staff and people on the ambulances."

Patient Transport is a free door-to-door service that allows people who have difficulty travelling to meet their healthcare appointments.

Thames has been commissioned to run the service for Northamptonshire after the former provider, NSL Ltd, did not bid to renew its contract.

But a CQC inspection carried out at the Thames head office, in Essex, in November and December last year described the provider's service as poor, unhygienic and lacking accountability for incidents.

The report says: "There was a poor culture around reporting, investigating and learning from incidents and a lack of accountability for incidents. Staff were not given the appropriate support and guidance to be able to report incidents consistently. There was a lack of systems and processes to ensure lessons were learned and shared.

"We were made aware of an incident where a patient was found to be deteriorating during their transport journey; however, the PTS crews did not call for emergency support and transported this patient directly to A&E with no emergency alert. This patient later died.

"The lack of formal procedure and inconsistency in staff knowledge and understanding of action to take in the event of a patient becoming seriously unwell meant that patients were at risk of not receiving appropriate care and treatment when they needed it."

The report also criticised the service's ability to deal with dementia or learning disabilities, its management and leadership and lack of accountability in safeguarding its patients.

A spokeswoman from Nene CCG, who awarded Thames the patient transport contract in earlier this month, said: “Nene CCG and Corby CCG are aware of last year’s CQC report of Thames Ambulance Service Limited. When we commission any service, we complete due diligence as part of that process. We have worked closely with other commissioners to gain assurance in relation to performance and the delivery plans for this service.”

Thames Ambulance Service Limited could not be reached for comment. They will begin operating the service on July 1.