A new service devoted to providing door-to-door care for NHS hospital patients is determined to overcome initial logistical issues and reach the high standards it has set itself.
NSL, which operates out of Dartford, Tonbridge, Ashford, Margate, Canterbury, with a headquarters in Maidstone, transports certain categories of non-emergency patients to hospital in Kent and Medway and has been selected to replace the former complex system of private ambulance companies across the county. It took up the contract on 1 July, but within the first week, high levels of demand left some users less than happy with the service.
Mr Cooper said the deficiencies in numbers of frontline staff and ambulances had quickly been reassessed and the company had brought in a team of experts from across the UK to manage and stabilise the operation, putting the patient firmly back at the centre of the service.
He explained how NSL’s newest centre in east Kent was set up: “We approached Stour Valley Estates in May, with a view to setting up a patient transport station for the Canterbury area, to support our Margate and Ashford operation.
“Stour Valley offered us an empty hanger without floors. Once we had agreed terms, I was surprised by how much goodwill they showed. They really pushed the boat out by laying concrete flooring and building the internal infrastructure. It was largely thanks to their professionalism that NSL patient transport in Canterbury was able to open in the timely manner it did.”
About 285,000 journeys to and from hospital are made in Kent every year and the NHS believes using one company to provide transport is more cost-effective and provides a better quality of care. The contract will be managed by the West Kent Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), whose chief officer Ian Ayres said at the launch: “All CCGs expect this new system to provide a high-quality, efficient and effective service which will be significantly better for patients.
“NSL has invested in 89 new vehicles, which can cater for patients’ clinical needs, while transporting them in comfort. The booking centre will contact patients to confirm their transport, which can act as a reminder for some and will also enable transport to be cancelled if an appointment has changed. The previous service was good in some areas, but less effective in others. This new system should work well for everyone eligible in Kent and Medway.”
The original company was set up in Shrewsbury in 1989, as a small, bespoke ambulance transport business to transfer vulnerable patients, such as the elderly or children with special needs. It soon grew to a fleet of 120 vehicles and became NSL Care Services and is now used by NHS trusts in Shropshire, Herefordshire, Staffordshire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, West Midlands and Kent. Three new counties – Devon, Somerset and Cornwall – are soon to be added.
NSL, which has achieved gold Investor in People status, is also hoping to soon provide emergency ambulances for the NHS and to offer health further services as demand expands. It currently offers transport to high dependency and bariatric patients in Kent.
The main personalities within NSL are: Chief executive officer Mark Underwood, managing director Alastair Cooper, account directors Emma Collins, Chris Dexter and Steve Roe, chief ambulance officer and account director Wayne Spedding, clinical director Viv Oliver and paramedic instructor Gary Parkinson.
More details can be found on their website: nslcareservices.co.uk.