The Times began looking into the patient transport service provided by G4S after being contacted by reader Husnara Begum, who suffered an ‘appalling’ experience with the group.
Ms Begum, known for her role in co-ordinating the local Remain campaign during last year’s referendum on EU membership, was left stranded at University College Hospital in London – where she is treated for severe Rheumatoid Arthritis – for six hours.
Since the incident, which left her in ‘floods of tears’, the corporate lawyer-turned-legal recruiter, has also brought the issue to the attention of Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark.
Ms Begum often has to use an electric wheelchair and booked the service as the treatment she receives means using public transport is not viable.
After being dropped off for the appointment on July 21 an hour late, she was then told upon completion of her treatment at 5:50pm that it would take up to three hours for her to be collected.
“Two hours passed with no updates so I approached the G4S representative on the transport desk and she told me in a very abrupt and unhelpful manner that I had to wait another 20 minutes before my enquiry would be dealt with,” Ms Begum said.
Once the representative got round to contacting the controller looking after transport for Kent, Ms Begum was told no vehicle had been assigned to her and no information on when it could be provided was available.
The representative then abruptly told Ms Begum her shift was over, and left her with a phone number of an unnamed contact to deal with the issue herself.
“Words cannot begin to describe how upsetting it was to essentially be abandoned by the G4S transport desk and to be told to ‘sort it out myself,’ Ms Begum said.
At no point was she offered food or water.
Ms Begum, who at the time was on the drug Rituximab, an immune system suppressant that results in increased tiredness, said she ‘lost her composure’ and ‘burst into floods of tears’, upon being left alone.
Hospital staff then escorted to Ms Begum to A&E to wait, while they tried to contact G4S, who eventually collected their patient just before midnight, getting her back to Tunbridge Wells at 2am.
“Suffice to say I was feeling absolutely horrendous. I was exhausted and in severe pain.
“I understand that the delay wasn’t caused by severe congestion on the motorways or a broken down ambulance. As far as I can gather it is simply down to a lack of investment and poor management.”
Managing director for G4S transport services, Russell Hobbs, said: “We have written to Ms Begum to apologise for the very poor service she received during her appointment at University College Hospital and we are looking into what went wrong.
“We know that this is a vital service for the patients who use it and we have made substantial progress in cutting delays in the months since we took it over a year ago. While the vast majority of the 1,200 patient journeys we deliver per day are completed on time and without incident, when things go wrong we will always try to act swiftly to put them right.”
Greg Clark said:
“I have been very concerned that constituents have reported a number of problems with the performance of the G4S Patient Transport Service which I have raised with the company and I have requested a meeting with the Clinical Commission Group and G4S to discuss this further.”