An elderly woman reliant on a private ambulance service to take her to hospital appointments has slammed the company behind the scheme.
Jenny Nathan, aged 72, from Potton, says she missed two appointments this month after Private Ambulance Service (PAS) recently took over the contract for the Bedfordshire service.
She has used the service since 1996 with no complications before.
She missed an appointment at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge after the pre-booked ambulance turned up 10 minutes before her appointment was due. The hospital managed to re-arrange it for the same day, but Mrs Nathan was then left with no transport home. The clinic, which had closed by this time, managed to organise her a private taxi back from Cambridge.
On the second occasion after a clinic appointment she was left at Gilbert Hitchcock House in Bedford, unable to get through to the company for a ride back home.
“It was getting quite dark and I was quite frightened,” she said. “I had no money and I was sat in the waiting room with just the cleaner around wondering how I was going to get home. I was frightened that they could abandon someone like that.”
She said she had phoned the service several times, only to be told she was in a queue of around 16 people before she could talk to an operator.
“I have been on the phone for an hour trying to get through before now,” she said.
Mrs Nathan, who lives on her own, relies on an oxygen supply when walking which restricts her movement.
“I’m really angry about it,” she said. “This company, that must have put in for the tender, should have had the staff and the proper equipment to take people to hospital.”
A Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (BCCG) spokesperson said: “Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group as part of a consortium have awarded a contract to Private Ambulance Service (PAS) for the provision of Non-Emergency Patient Transport.
“It was bought to our attention that PAS experienced some issues at the start of the contact, which caused delays and concerns for patients.
“This is something we take extremely seriously and have been working closely with PAS to tackle the issues head on.
“There have been significant improvements in the service offered to patients during the first few weeks of the contract, and we are continuing to monitor performance closely to ensure patients receive the high-quality service we expect from our providers.”
PAS had not responded for a comment as the Chronicle went to press.