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Coperforma questions reach Parliament

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PRESSURE is mounting on the Health Secretary over the Coperforma ambulance scandal – but it looks as though he will refuse to face his critics in Parliament.

Following The Argus’s revelations of a massive overspend of public funds on the 2016 privatisation fiasco, both Caroline Lucas and Peter Kyle have asked questions in Parliament.

And shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth has now joined them in demanding a full public inquiry.

But the Department Of Health And Social Care – to which Jeremy Hunt was reappointed in last week’s reshuffle – cannot confirm he will make a statement.

Last week in written questions to the department, Pavilion MP Ms Lucas demanded to know the full total paid by the NHS to Coperforma, how much money has been recovered and whether more money will yet be recovered.

She demanded a full public inquiry and asked whether Jeremy Hunt would make a statement on the matter in the House.

The Argus asked the department whether Mr Hunt would make a statement.

A spokeswoman replied: “I’ve looked into this and can only confirm that we have received the Parliamentary questions tabled by Caroline Lucas MP and an appropriate response will be provided by the deadline of January 16.”

Jon Ashworth said: “This privatisation of patient transport services to Coperforma in Sussex was an absolute disaster… an absolute scandal and I demand a full inquiry into what has gone on.”

Meanwhile on Tuesday, Hove MP Mr Kyle told MPs Coperforma had underperformed in “every way, shape and form” and asked whether this was indicative of the way the NHS was being run.

From April 2016, privatelyowned Coperforma Ltd provided an “Uber” type smartphone app to direct drivers to patients and subcontracted work to a dozen different private ambulance companies.

Its tenure included tens of thousands of missed patient journeys, patients being left waiting for hours, patients missing appointments, ambulances being sent to the homes of patients who had died, ambulances operating without a licence, drivers going for months without pay, and misleading statements being made in Parliament.

The contract was worth around £15.75 million per year but Coperforma performed so poorly that after seven months the NHS pulled the plug.

The Argus has revealed Coperforma was paid £16.2 million and the NHS paid close to £1 million in extra payments to help its former staff while they worked for Coperforma subcontractors who failed to pay salaries or pensions.

TIMELINE

November 2015: Coperforma awarded £63m, four-year Patient Transport contract by seven Sussex CCGs.

April 2016: Thousands of patient journeys missed. Argus reveals Coperforma smartphone app does not work at rural depots

Summer ‘16: Review finds 8/10 renal patients failed in first three weeks. Subcontractor goes bust. NHS has to pay driver salaries.

October ‘16: Argus reveals ambulances operating without licences.

November ‘16: Coperforma lose contract.

December ‘17: Argus reveals NHS paid £1m in out-of-pocket extras.

January 2018: Argus reveals Coperforma got £16.2m for seven months – more than they were due for a year’s satisfactory service.


Source: The Argus