Shadow Health Minister, Andy Burnham and UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis, are adding their support to a protest of angry ambulance workers in Parliament today (10 December).
Around 100 ambulance staff and supporters from Manchester are protesting about the transfer of the non-emergency patient transport service (PTS) from the NHS to private company Arriva. The in-house NHS bid topped Arriva on quality but were out-bid on price, which the union fears will lead to a poor quality service for vulnerable patients and act as a blueprint for cuts elsewhere.
Cuts are already a serious threat to ambulance services across the country. The Government is calling for cuts of £50000m to the ambulance service over the next 5years – £10m a year. Despite a massive public backlash, East Midlands Ambulance Service is closing up to 70 ambulance stations spread across the region and replacing them with 13 larger hubs in a bid to save cash.
Dave Prentis, General Secretary of UNISON, said:
“It is a disgrace. Surely patients must come before profits, but in Tory Britain cuts come first. The NHS topped private company Arriva on the quality of the service they were offering to vulnerable patients, but they lost the contract on price.
“Across the county the NHS and patients are losing out because of Government demand for cuts. People in Manchester have had no say in the transfer of a valued service that many very sick patients rely on to take them for chemotherapy, dialysis, physiotherapy, scans and other consultant appointments.
“I hope that this protest today will focus MPs and Ministers’ attention on the huge public outcry and concern at this privatisation plan and cuts to the whole ambulance service.”
UNISON has collected more than 14,000 signatures to a petition calling for Manchester’s Ambulance Patient Transport Service to remain in the NHS and to reverse privatisation plans. The petition will be carried by wheelchair to the Department of Health later today.
Notes for Editors
· Manchester’s PTS service is also part of the plan for emergency situations within the Greater Manchester Area which is defined as high risk by Central Government.
· Arriva are due to take over the running of the service from March 2013.
· Arriva’s private ambulance enterprise in Leicestershire, ‘Ambuline’, was inspected by the Care and Quality Commission in September 2012 and found to be failing to meet standards in every measure of the assessment, from infection control to patient care, raising further concerns around the company’s suitability to run the service.