‘SERIOUS DANGER TO PATIENT SAFETY’ –from Ambulance Service privatisation

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Public service union, Unison has warned of the serious dangers to patient safety if the Ambulance Services are privatised.

This comes after the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust signed a three-year contract with the private ambulance provider Norvic.

Staff working for private companies receive much less vital training than NHS ambulance crew drivers.

Nevertheless private company Norvic supply patient transport services to the Trust.

Norvic is a company based at Taverham, near Norwich.

NHS drivers are not recruited if they have more than three penalty points on their licence and have to successfully complete an intensive three-week advanced driving course.

Norvic drivers only undergo a two-day advanced driver course.

Furthermore, Norvic drivers are allowed to have six points on their licence and are still eligible to be a Norvic driver.

The Emergency Medical Technician course for Norvic drivers is also only five days long, while NHS ambulance drivers must complete a 10 week course, followed by 12 months of supervision.

Gary Applin, from the East of England Ambulance Service Unison branch, said: ‘We have grave concerns about patient safety with the new Norvic contract.

‘Ambulance drivers aren’t delivering parcels, they are transporting the sick, disabled and some of the most vulnerable in our society.

‘Norvic drivers receive far less training than their NHS counterparts.

‘The public should be worried about being driven around by drivers and clinicians with very limited training.

‘The Trust needs to answer some very tough questions about why they are choosing to pay for the services of a private company, rather than their own experienced, hard-working NHS staff.

‘This is a classic example of back-door privatisation. Patient care should come before huge profit margins.’

Meanwhile, Unison, along with other unions and community groups, has joined forces to campaign against the threat to privatise Whiston & St Helens Hospitals.

Two public meetings are being held tonight and tomorrow to kick-start a joint campaign.

Unison Regional Organiser, Andrew Rutherford said yesterday: ‘Despite management assurances that there is no threat to privatise both hospitals, local politicians have been informed by ministers in the Department of Health, that plans are in place to privatise as one of a number of options.

‘Only last week the Prime Minister, speaking in the House of Commons, stated that there were no plans to privatise parts of the NHS, clearly the threat hanging over Whiston & St Helens places question marks over his statement.

‘The private sector is only interested in the parts of the NHS that will bring in a profit, this poses a major threat to the delivery of front line and community based services.

‘We need to do everything we can to ensure that the Whiston & St Helens Hospitals remain within the NHS, delivering quality services and providing first class care to all.

‘Please come along on the 24th to the Robert Foulkes Centre, Brook Street, Whiston – 7pm, or on the 25th at the Assembly Hall, St Helens Town Hall – 7pm and show your support, as well as helping to send a strong message to the ConDem government to ‘Keep your hands off our NHS’.

The North East London Council of Action is holding its monthly picket of Chase Farm Hospital in Enfield, North London from 7am-2pm today, against the threatened closure of the A&E, consultant-led Maternity and Paediatrics departments.