“Close loophole to stop ‘cowboy’ ambulance companies” urges IAA

Monday, 06 January, 2014

The Independent Ambulance Association today (2 January 2013) urged the Department of Health and the Care Quality Commission to close a loophole in the law which allows unregistered ambulance companies to provide medical cover at public events.

The IAA, the leading trade association for the private ambulance industry, will raise its concerns with the CQC later this month and will also propose that hospitals should stop contracting local unregistered taxi companies to transport patients who are being discharged.

“Both these practices are unnecessarily putting peoples’ safety at risk and must not be allowed to continue” says the IAA which points out that the Health and Social Care Acts require that all providers who transport patients register with the CQC, regardless of distance or purpose as there are no exemptions in law.

In a statement the IAA continues: “However, the Department of Health and CQC have subverted the legislation and have publically announced that providers operating ambulance services only within the confines of an event site should not register.  

“This means that operators who have never had their standards checked, who often employ staff with no criminal records check and who can have inadequate qualifications, are operating blue light ambulances serving these events – virtually indistinguishable from registered providers.”

“This presents a real risk to people who attend events, and these unlicensed operators gain a lot of work from event organisers who are seeking the cheapest quote. Unregistered providers are often cheaper as they do not have the costs associated with registration and compliance, undercutting reputable, regulated ambulance services.

“The more reputable companies have chosen to register, and be shown to comply, but the consequence of the Department of Health and CQC failing to enforce the statute laid down by parliament is to allow ‘cowboy’ providers to continue operating.

“Some of these providers are stretching the grace they have been given, including covering events across an entire town, given that they define it as an event, even though they are operating across public streets.

“If someone needs to be treated in hospital, the provider can either transport them illegally, or call 999 for an NHS ambulance, which defeats the object of engaging private medical cover to reduce demand on the local NHS.”

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