Arriva to take patients to hospital in Greater Manchester
Bus company Arriva is to run part of Greater Manchester's ambulance service, it has been confirmed.
The bus and train operator will take patients to hospital after it won the patient transport service (PTS) contract put out to tender by the NHS.
It will take over from the North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) next year.
Campaigners against Arriva running the service had set up a petition on the Unison website, over fears of privatisation of the NHS.
The PTS provides non-urgent transport to and from hospital appointments for those who are too ill or vulnerable to use public transport.'Fully trained'
The service currently employs 374 NHS staff and is for non-urgent medical appointments, rather than emergencies.
Arriva was named as the preferred bidder for the three-year contract 10 days ago, and has now been confirmed.
The unsuccessful bidders have until midnight on Monday to challenge the decision.
Allan Jude, Director of Ambulance Commissioning, NHS Blackpool, said: "'It is important to understand that this is not the emergency blue light service and the staff are not front line ambulance staff and never attend 999 calls.
End Quote Angela Raynor Unison
It is a disgrace that the winning bidder was not the provider with the highest standards, just the lowest cost”
"Ambulance staff on the Arriva contract will be fully trained in basic first aid, life support and resuscitation techniques including the administration of oxygen and lifting and handling and the service will offer patients the quality service they need."
Unison said the bus company won the contract as it was the lowest priced option, but that it scored lower on quality than NWAS.
Angela Rayner, of Unison North West region, said: "It is a disgrace that the winning bidder was not the provider with the highest standards, just the lowest cost.
"We know that privatisation is deeply unpopular with the public. Recent high profile privatisation failings have revealed just how badly things can go wrong - we don't want patients in Manchester to suffer as a result of this decision."
Among those objecting to Arriva running the contract is Cath Stone, of New Moston, Manchester, whose daughter Helena suffers from degenerative disease Costello's Syndrome.
She said: "It's a relief to know there are trained staff if anything happens to Helena in the ambulance.
"I fear they (Arriva) might not have as highly trained people.
"I want to feel confident that if they had a problem on the way they could save the life of the person there."
Contracts to run the passenger transport services in Lancashire, Merseyside, Cheshire and Cumbria were all awarded to NWAS.