Local people to benefit from new, improved patient transport services

Friday 27th November, 2015

Users of the NHS Non-Emergency Patient Transport Service (PTS) in Sussex will benefit from a new and improved service from 1 April 2016.

Following a competitive procurement process, the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in Sussex are pleased to announce that Coperforma has been awarded a contract to provide the service across Sussex from April next year.

The Patient Transport Service helps people to access healthcare appointments. It provides some 25,000 journeys per month for people who meet certain medical criteria that would otherwise prevent them from travelling to their appointment, and is free at the point of use.

Sally Smith, Director of Delivery for NHS High Weald Lewes Havens CCG, which manages the contract on behalf of all Sussex CCGs, said:

“NHS Patient Transport is a vital service for many people who need help to attend appointments for medical reasons. We have engaged widely with service users, carers and staff to understand their experiences of using NHS Patient Transport and listened to their ideas on how it might be improved in Sussex.  We are confident the new service will ensure high quality, timely, consistent and flexible transport services for local people.”

Coperforma will provide the service through its own patient booking hub, and use a network of local transport providers to deliver the service. Service users can expect to experience a range of improvements, including:

  • Better information about how to access the service and their eligibility;
  • An improved booking process;
  • Access to real-time information on their booking using latest technology; and
  • Consistently prompt and reliable pick-up and drop-off times, regardless of where they live in the county.

Coperforma has a proven track record of managing patient transport for the NHS, having provided services for hospital trusts, CCGs, and community, mental health and social care service providers in London and Hampshire over the past five years.

The Sussex CCGs will be working closely with local people, the current service providers (including the South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb) and the Patient Transport Bureau (PTB), Coperforma, and local NHS Trusts over the next four months to ensure a smooth transition to the new service from 1 April 2016.

Background to the procurement

In March 2014, the South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb) informed the Commissioners that it was not in the position to continue providing PTS in Sussex beyond the contract expiry date of 31 March 2015 under the existing terms. A one year extension was then agreed with SECAmb to continue delivering the service until 31 March 2016; to enable the seven Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) to undertake a thorough and robust procurement process, supported by widespread engagement with members of the public, incumbent staff, and users of the current service.

A new service specification was developed, informed by this engagement to learn about people’s experiences of using PTS and how it could be improved.

Under NHS procurement rules, any potential provider capable of delivering a service was able to express an interest and bid. In this case, we did not receive any final bids from NHS or public sector providers to operate this service. 

Following a robust procurement process, a 4 year contract to deliver the service has been awarded to Coperforma. There will be a four month mobilisation period, with the new service going live on 1 April 2016.

Frequently ask questions

What is the Sussex Non-Emergency Patient Transport Service (PTS)?

PTS is a Sussex-wide service that helps people access healthcare appointments. The service provides some 25,000 journeys per month for people who are unable to use public or other transport owing to medical conditions.  The service is booked by patients through the Sussex Patient Transport Bureau (PTB) and is free at the point of use for people who meet certain medical criteria which would otherwise prevent them from getting to their appointment. It does not include urgent ambulance journeys.

What are the eligibility criteria?

PTS is for patients who have been clinically assessed as having a condition that means:

  • They need the assistance of ambulance staff or other skilled personnel for the journey, and/or;
  • It may be medically harmful to their health to travel by other means.

What was the process for developing a new, improved patient transport service?

In 2014, the Sussex CCGs launched a survey seeking views on the current service, followed by a range of public and staff engagement activities in early 2015; including 9 open events across Sussex. The aim of this activity was to better understand the experiences and needs of people using the service, identify what people liked about the current service, and highlight areas for improvement. The CCGs also sought to learn from other parts of the country where Patient Transport Services are performing well.

How have local people been involved in informing this process?

Our focus has been to work together with service users, staff and clinicians to secure the very best NHS Patient Transport Services for Sussex. We instigated an extensive and wide reaching programme of patient, public, staff and wider stakeholder engagement to consider together how the service could be improved. This included:

  • Patient and staff surveys
  • A series of nine open public events,
  • Interviews with staff and service users on board PTS vehicles
  • Recruitment to and formation of a PTS patient forum to review and inform the procurement process; with two members also involved in the evaluation panel which selected the new provider.

Feedback from the above was vital in shaping and informing our process to develop a new NHS Patient Transport Service that best meets the needs of local people and will deliver the improvements we all want.

Will users need to do anything differently?

Some details of how the service will work are still to be agreed in collaboration with the new provider, to ensure we make the best use of their innovative technologies and processes in order to deliver the best possible service.  We will ensure we work closely with service users over the next few months as we consider the detail of how the service will work. Any changes will be communicated clearly to avoid confusion. 

How to contact the communications team

You can reach our communication team by:

  • Calling – 01903 707447
  • Emailing –
  • Writing to – Communications Team, NHS Coastal West Sussex CCG, 1 The Causeway, Goring-by-Sea, West Sussex, BN12 6BT