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Union stages protests at Sussex GP practices over unpaid ambulance staff

Several GP practices in Sussex run by GP commissioning leads are facing a wave of protests from unpaid ambulance staff, after the collapse of a sub-contracted provider.

The GMB union said the 20 staff are already owed thousands of pounds and have been left in limbo after Docklands Medical Services, which ran the ambulance service, appeared to fold on Tuesday.

The union is blaming the local CCGs for failing to carry out sufficient background checks on private provider Coperforma – which subcontracted Docklands Medical Services – before handing it the contract to run patient transport services in April this year.

The first protest took place on Wednesday outside the practice of NHS Brighton and Hove CCG chair Dr Xavier Nalletamby, and GMB said further action is planned from next Tuesday at practices of GP leaders of the seven CCGs responsible for signing off the contract.

GMB southern regional representative Gary Palmer told Pulse the staff at Docklands Medical Services were already owed between £3,000 and £4,000 each, and were now in limbo after turning up at work on Tuesday to find the company had removed all the vehicles and equipment.

It comes after the previous subcontracted provider – VM Langford – went into liquidation just 11 weeks ago.

The union wants the CCGs to take the contract away from Coperforma and hand it back to an NHS provider.

Mr Palmer said NHS High Weald Lewes and Haven CCG was the lead commissioning group on the deal, but that the union was taking its protest to all the GPs and other commissioning chiefs who signed it off.

A Coperforma spokesman said: ‘We can assure all patients that there will be no impact on the provision of the patient transport service across Sussex because one of the key benefits of the Coperforma managed service is that we can quickly switch capacity, as we have done in this case, to another provider.’

Pulse contacted NHS High Weald Lewes and Haven CCG but has not received a response.