A BUS company has defended its controversial takeover of non-emergency medical transport in Wigan after councillors remained sceptical.
When Arriva Transport Solutions (ATSL) was handed the contract for patients with non-urgent hospital appointments on April 1, it received more than 116 complaints in its first few weeks.
But during a performance review at Wigan Council’s health and social care scrutiny meeting, bosses appeared happy with its service, insisting things have improved.
When comparing the service under NWAS and the new contract, figures showed ATSL performing better in most scenarios in terms of calls answered and collection times.
It performed well for the length of time patients were sitting in the vehicle, with 91 per cent transported for no more than 60 minutes: one per cent more than the desired amount and 14 per cent more than under the previous contract.
But ATSL fell below par for collecting patients after appointments within an hour, with 69 per cent achieving the target compared with 79 by NWAS. The target is 85. ATSL also managed to pick up 83 per cent of patients within 90 minutes - 12 per cent less than the target and seven per cent lower than NWAS.
ATSL chief Dennis Hajdukiewicz said: “We are committed to delivering an excellent standard of care for all patients.
“The Patient Transport Service (PTS) makes approximately 500,000 patient journeys a year across the region. In Wigan, the service has undertaken over 17,000 patient journeys since April, taking patients to and from NHS hospitals and treatment centres.
“The PTS operates to a different NHS contract specification than previously, commissioned specifically to ensure a consistent level of service for patients and the highest quality standards.
“For those patients who tend to use PTS more frequently, such as cancer and renal dialysis patients, there is an enhanced priority service that has stricter standards which need to be achieved.
“This includes standards to ensure these patients have reduced travelling times on vehicles and a shorter time-frame in which they can be dropped at hospital for their appointments. ATSL has seen an improvement in the number of patients transported within these standards across a number of areas.
“This includes reduced travelling time on our vehicles, arrival at appointments in line with the contract standards and collection after appointments within an hour from when we are informed the patient is ready to travel.”
But councillors were concerned about the direct comparisons between the two contracts.
Scrutiny committee chairman Coun Nigel Ash said: “It is still early days and as a councillor I have not had any complaints about the new service.
“But in order for us to fully understand, we need better data and then we can compare, so we will speak at regular intervals.
“If we do find lots of complaints, we will speak with ATSL further and ask why.”