Criticised ambulance firm NSL Kent withdraws bid

A private ambulance firm that failed two Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspections has withdrawn its bid to run the service when its contract ends.

NSL Kent has been providing non-urgent transport for patients in the county since July 2013.

A CQC report published in July 2014 found it did not meet standards in three areas, but improvements had been made since an inspection in 2013.

The GMB said it was "surprised" NSL had withdrawn from the tendering process.

"Our current contract comes to an end in June 2016 and Kent CCG have a procurement process in place to help transition the service to a new provider next July. On this occasion we have taken the decision not to rebid the contract," a spokesman for NSL said.

"We have already successfully delivered 197,000 patient journeys in Kent in 2015 and we remain fully committed to delivering outstanding customer experiences for the full duration of the current contract."

Two other bids are believed have been made to run the service.

Overnight problems

NHS West Kent Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) expects to announce the outcome of the tendering process in December.

The 2014 CQC report found NSL Kent had failed to meet necessary standards in how it supported staff, how it trained staff, and how it cared for patients who used the service.

Among the complaints, inspectors found fewer ambulances were available after 18:00 BST, despite the fact it was meant to be a 24-hour service, causing problems for patients travelling overnight.

GMB regional officer Frank Macklin said: "I'm very surprised as NSL, up to this stage, had fully participated in the tendering process.

He said although NSL Kent had struggled at the start of its contract the service it provided was now a lot better.

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