An ambulance service has been handed extra funding to provide non-emergency transport – less than a year after it agreed to end its original contract.
The six clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in Cheshire, Warrington and the Wirral have awarded a new five-year contract to West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS), which begins on April 1.
It will see WMAS provide around 180,000 journeys a year, taking patients from their homes to hospitals and treatment centres for consultations, treatments and procedures.
Michelle Brotherton, non-emergency services operational delivery director at WMAS, said: “Putting patient care first has always been our number one priority and we feel this new contract will allow us to provide the level of patient care we feel is appropriate.
“Our bid was the perfect balance of value for money and quality.”
WMAS originally had an agreement to run the service until 2021, but last April it agreed with the CCGs that it could end that contract early, giving 12 months’ notice.
In a joint statement, the CCGs explain that the requirements of the service increased before last May, and as a result WMAS required additional funding to continue the service.
The statement added: “The CCGs responsible for planning and buying healthcare for the people of Cheshire, Warrington and Wirral are committed to securing the best possible non-emergency patient transport service for their populations.
“WMAS has been providing an excellent service since July 2016 to service levels specified in a contract awarded jointly by the CCGs.
“During the period of the contract, the specification changed due to developments in services, and both parties accepted that additional funding was required to ensure patients in Cheshire, Warrington and Wirral continued to get the highest quality of care.”
Under the new contract, WMAS can recruit 40 additional members of staff and add 30 vehicles to its fleet.
Additional equipment will also be brought in for specialist care – including bariatrics, the branch of medicine that deals with obesity.
Unions had expressed concern when WMAS announced it was ending its original contract early, but they are now firmly on board with the improved service.
In a joint statement, Unison staff side chair Stuart Gardner and GMB organiser Michael Buoey said: “All trade unions are pleased that WMAS has retained the contract, and we look forward to continuing our work together on behalf of our members, staff and patients in Cheshire and the Wirral.”
The contract was awarded by NHS Wirral CCG for itself and on behalf of the Eastern Cheshire, South Cheshire, Vale Royal, Warrington and West Cheshire CCGs.