Devon private ambulance crews 'pressured'

Private ambulance
Image caption Private ambulance crews say they are under too much pressure

Drivers at a private ambulance company in Devon say they do not have enough time to provide a proper service.

NHS Devon said it was unacceptable patients were experiencing problems getting to and from appointments.

Two drivers, who did not want to be identified, told BBC News crews were under too much pressure to keep appointments.

NSL has provided non-emergency patient transport in the county since October 2013.

The drivers told BBC News they were often late because timings were wrong and crews were pressurised.

"I think the thing that strikes us all most is that NSL seem to have a profound lack of understanding of the fact they're transporting patients," said one driver.

"Some of them are very elderly and may be suffering from dementia, which makes them very vulnerable."

'Had to complain'

Another driver said he was late for patient collections every day.

"I feel upset for them, I really feel for them," he said.

Diana Baxter, a kidney dialysis patient from north Devon, said she sometimes had to wait two hours to be collected.

"It's very, very tiring because you're tired after your dialysis anyway, sometimes you're not feeling very well, and all you want to do is get home.

"If your transport is not well organised it really doesn't help. I've had to complain several times.

"All they're interested in is running their business."

NHS Devon and NSL said transport problems were "unacceptable" and they were monitoring the situation.

An NSL spokesman said 89% of outpatients and 94% of kidney patients were on time for appointments, excluding delays beyond the company's control.

The spokesman said that demand for transport was so high patients could not have sole use of vehicles unless they have specialist needs.

Patients who are not ready at their allotted collection time also cause delays, said the company.

Image caption Diana Baxter says she has complained twice to ambulance operator NSL

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