Health bosses defend decision not to terminate Thames Ambulance patient transport contract for Lincolnshire

Health bosses have defended their decision not to terminate a patient transport contract over poor performance, despite “no confidence” calls from councillors.

Lincolnshire West Clinical Commissioning Group said it recognised that Thames Ambulance Service’s performance had “not been good”, but added it was not the right time to find a new provider.

It comes after councillors on the health scrutiny panel for Lincolnshire called on commissioners to terminate the contract last month.

But Tim Fowler, director of commissioning at Lincolnshire West CCG, said at the panel meeting today (Wednesday) moving to a new provider during the winter would be riskier than sticking with their present provider.

“What we don’t want to do is precipitate a worse service for patients at this point in time,” he said.

“Whether things change in the future is something that we will keep under review and keep considering.

“But, at this point in time, we do not think it is the right time because of the impact on patients to exit the contract.”

He added that the contract will be kept under review for its performance in the coming months.

Coun Carl Macey, chairman of the health scrutiny panel, said it was a “complicated” issue, but added that the service is not up to standard.

“We can completely understand that winter pressures would mean that it’s going to be difficult to terminate that contract currently,” he said.

“However, it is also very clear that the service is not up to standard and it’s having a bad effect on people who use that service on a daily basis.”

He added that the CCG should look at terminating the contract after the winter period in order to “move forward” with the service.

It comes after Thames showed a drop in performance against key indicators viewed at a meeting of the health scrutiny panel in December 2018.

Lincolnshire West CCG, which is the lead commissioner for non-emergency patient transport services in the county, contracted the company in July 2017.

The service came under criticism from patients and forced Thames to apologise in February 2018 for poor performance in the county.

Since then, the firm has undergone a management restructure which includes Derek Laird, former commercial director of West Midlands Ambulance Service, taking over as chief executive.

Despite the improvement in performance, Thames recently lost the contract for non-emergency patient transport in the north of the county.