Expanding SSG Targets No 1 Ambulance Spot

Wednesday, 12 September, 2018

A year ago, a new and relatively unknown name, SSG started to appear on the sides of private ambulances supporting the emergency and patient transport needs of NHS patients in London and the South East of England.

SSG was the brand name of Servicios Socio Sanitarios Generales, a leading Spanish company in transport and health services, which in July 2017, had established its first UK base with the acquisition of Specialist Ambulance Service, based in Rainham, Essex.

Formed in year 2000, SSG is currently Europe’s second largest cross border provider of health transport services; it has one of the largest ambulance fleets with approximately 1,500 vehicles and a workforce of an estimated 2,500 employees.

In additions to its operations in Spain and the UK, SSG provides a range of specialist health and medical transport services in Portugal, Peru and Sweden.
Today, its UK operation - SSG UK Ambulance Service, based in Rainham, Essex - is methodically moving through an 8-point expansion and recruitment plan with the optimistic target of becoming the No 1 private provider of four specialist services – Accident & Emergency, Patient Transport, Bariatric and Secure under the Mental Health Act.

To lead this transformation strategy the Spanish owners have appointed two people who together provide an unrivalled wealth of hands-on experience of NHS and private ambulance services – Gary Bowyer, Director of Business Development and Gemini Sampath, Director of Finance & Governance.

Gary, who had been in the old company for 12 years, is an NHS Pathway accredited quality all round executive manager with more than 35 years’ experience gained by working at senior board level; he has a solid background in operational, business and procurement management; Gemini, who joined the company at the time of the change of ownership, is a highly qualified accountant, with 20 years of financial experience in business, most recently as a consultant with NHS trusts, Addenbrookes Hospital and GE Healthcare.

A two-tier Anglo-Spanish management structure has been introduced to run the company and to ease any cultural and language issues, two experienced SSG Group executives have been transferred to Rainham to work with their new British colleagues.

There is a Board of Directors which includes Gary and Gemini and Spanish representatives from SSG Group which meets monthly in Rainham to review the company’s performance and focus on long-term strategic planning and investment; in addition, an Executive Committee has been formed which includes senior HR, Governance and Operational executives.

Explains Gary: “It would be fair to say that there was a bit of a cultural shock for both the Spanish and us during the first few months after the change of ownership, but it is encouraging how quickly we have been able overcome any difficulties.”
The first step was to undertake a forensic review of the company’s operations to identify areas which needed to be improved and what emerged was a defined plan which included:

  • Investment in new front-line vehicles 
  • More sophisticated workforce planning 
  • Enhanced IT innovation 
  • Improved online presence 
  • Introduction of staff personal development programmes 
  • New partnership arrangements with paramedic universities 
  • Establishing a training academy 
  • Fresh approach to customer care 

The transformation strategy is gradually being put in place, but the company’s prime focus is to meet the increasing needs of its three key NHS ambulance trust customers – East of England, South Central and South East Coast; it also has a Northern base station in Northumberland and two others in Hampshire and Buckinghamshire to enhance its service in the South, and offer its service UK-wide.
In a recent inspection report after visiting Cramlington the Care Quality Commission said it noted that “staff had a commitment to providing the best possible patient care and taking steps to minimise distress in them and their families.”

SSG UK Ambulance Service has one of the most impressive fleet of 250 fully-equipped vehicles ranging from the latest A&E and PTS ambulances, a six-berth triage centre, a mobile engineering and maintenance ‘workshop’, secure and bariatric ambulances, and 4X4’s, motorcycles, quad bikes and a small electric vehicle all designed and equipped to reach people injured in difficult terrain.

The multiple-purpose fleet has been established to support the company’s strategy beyond A&E and PTS assignments and into the transporting of bariatric and secure patients; an area of future importance is providing medical cover for large-scale public events, such as The Lambeth Country Show, which it has been handling for the past nine years.

With over 150,000 people attending this year’s event over a single weekend, the show is one of the biggest free family festivals in the UK.

The expanding new look SSG UK Ambulance Service is now increasing its current work force of 750 and has just launched a major recruitment drive after improving its employment terms and conditions; it has also launched a special training programme for English-speaking young people from Spain and Portugal.

To underpin its transformation the company has a new Vision & Values statement which reads:
We are a people focussed service that strives for excellence & innovation.
Our values are evident in our professional commitment to
Quality – Care – Growth.

As Gary & Gemini readily admit: “We have deliberately set ourselves the highest bar of all, it will take time and much hard work, but we are quietly confident of getting there.”
• Recruitment Dept: 03332 407111 or email:
Recruitment@ssguksas.com www.ssguksas.com

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