‘No-show’ ambulance service ‘must be brought in-house’

Friday, 8th July — By Anna Lamche

Whittington blue2

The Whittington Hospital

A WOMAN who has missed multiple hospital appointments after a series of no-shows by non-emergency transport has called for the service to be brought back in-house as a matter of urgency.

Mary Wash, who lives Northview, Holloway, said she has had difficulty getting to her hospital appointments since the Whittington Hospital’s non-urgent ambulance service was outsourced to courier company DHL in 2019.

A £75million contract was awarded to DHL starting July 2019, procured on behalf of Whittington Health NHS Trust, which is set to run out in July 2024.

Ms Wash has said she hopes to see the service return in-house once the contract is up.

“When people hear DHL runs the service, they say, ‘Do they wrap you up in a brown paper bag and dump you on the doorstep?’” she said.

She first spoke to the Tribune about DHL’s patient transport in 2020. Since then she says she has missed “well over 20 appointments” because transport often turns up late or not at all.

“We still get the same problems every time,” she said this week.

With mobility issues and a range of health conditions requiring regular hospital visits, Ms Wash relies on non-emergency transport to get by. “Without transport, I wouldn’t get there,” she said.

DHL was awarded the patient transport contract for the Whittington, North Middlesex, Moorfields and the Royal Free hospitals in 2019.

Since then, its service has been inundated with complaints, with Islington Health Watch warning of late pick-ups and arrivals, and a harsher eligibility criteria as early as 2019. Ms Wash has warned that these problems still persist today.

“To get an appointment, we have to go through a load of questions: Have we got a blue badge? Have we got anybody who can take us? There’s so many questions,” she said.

Last week, late transport meant Ms Wash missed a long-scheduled podiatry appointment. Despite having booked transport well in advance, when the day of her appointment arrived “there was no ambulance”, Ms Wash said.

She said that before DHL took over the contract, the service “was really great”, adding: “When they did it in-house, they even booked it for you.”

A spokesperson for Whittington Health said: “We are sorry to hear of this experience.

“We hold regular meetings with our supplier where concerns can be identified and resolved – although we have had few issues about timeliness flagged by patients, we will be exploring Ms Wash’s concerns with DHL in more detail.”

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