COMMISSIONERS have responded to concerns over the future of patient care in Worcestershire after the non-emergency patient transport contract was awarded to a private firm.

West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) lost the Worcestershire contract to private company E-Zec Medical Transport after 30 years running the service, sparking criticism from ambulance staff who said the decision was "purely financial and nothing to do with patient care".

WMAS also expressed its disappointment, claiming it only lost out because it "refused to compromise on patient safety" by accepting a lower sum.

Former Wyre Forest MP and hospital campaigner Dr Richard Taylor has also weighed in on the decision, saying it is "completely stupid to move the service from a well-tested organisation for the sake of a few bob".

He added: "This is a step too far. People need to organise a resistance. I would certainly be a part of that."

But Worcestershire's Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) insist the decision was "weighted on patient quality and safety over financial considerations".

A CCG spokesman said: “The four CCGs across Herefordshire and Worcestershire started a procurement process in October 2018 to identify a provider of non-emergency patient transport services (NEPTS) from April 1, 2020 as the contract with the current provider was coming to an end.

“The procurement process was robust to ensure that the new NEPTS provider is able to deliver against the contract’s quality and performance requirements.

Kidderminster Shuttle:

"The process was weighted on patient quality and safety over financial considerations.

“The new provider has been operating safely and effectively in Herefordshire for the past four years and the CCGs are satisfied that they meet all requirements for patient safety and will deliver a high standard of NEPTS for patients in Worcestershire.”

Wayne Spedding, operations director at E-Zec, said the company had run a similar contract successfully in Hereford since 2015.

The non-emergency ambulances, which are white instead of yellow, take patients from their homes to hospitals and treatment centres for consultations and procedures, and are based at stations in Kidderminster's Stourport Road, the Princess of Wales Hospital in Bromsgrove, and one near Worcester.

Kidderminster Shuttle:

MP Mark Garnier told The Shuttle: "Ultimately what is important here is that the best service possible is delivered to patients.

"If the CCGs think this is is good for various reasons then I would trust them to make that decision. After all these are our regular family doctors.

"Obviously I'm incredibly mindful that when there is a change of organisation there will be differences and I'm keen to make sure patient safety isn't compromised under any circumstances.

"This service must be good if not better than the one offered by West Midlands Ambulance Service.

"I want to make sure we are getting value for money for the NHS so that it can spend more money on other services."