Thursday 1 July 2010

How the NHS protects its bad drivers

It’s now exactly 14 days since I emailed this complaint to NHS Direct, Waltham Forest

Complaint re- the driver of NHS vehicle LK09 BDU (a small white van with NHS markings and the word ‘ambulance’ on the back, although not a conventional size ambulance).

Today I watched as the male driver (on the large size) stopped this vehicle on NO PARKING AT ANY TIME markings beside the signalled pedestrian crossing on St James’s Street, Walthamstow, by the junction with High Street. He crossed the road and went into the Apollo dry cleaners, from where he emerged some minutes later with some dry cleaning. The time was around 11.30-11.35 am .

To park at this location is an offence and irresponsible and the driver is plainly someone prepared to abuse his position as the driver of an NHS vehicle in order to use it for private purposes.

NHS Direct Waltham Forest replied:

The Ambulance Service in Waltham Forest is managed by the London Ambulance Service, so the concerns that you have raised would need to be investigated and responded to by London Ambulance Services Complaints Department.

London Ambulance Service replied:

I have checked with our Fleet Manager, and this vehicle is not registered with the London Ambulance Service. The majority of NHS hospitals have their own ambulance fleets, with very similar livery to the London Ambulance Service, typically to transport patients to and from home or to convey to other hospitals and there are few private ambulance services in London, so I can only suggest that this ambulance came from a hospital or other healthcare centre nearby.

I went back to NHS Direct Waltham Forest. The response, one week ago, was this:

Waltham Forest PCT do not own any ambulances or indeed any vehicles, which is why [name withheld] would have believed that it was owned by the London Ambulance Service.

I am forwarding your email to the complaints team at Whipps Cross to see if they can identify this vehicle and driver, as I am aware that they do have a collection service which operates within the local community.

Unfortunately, there is no central database which lists the numbers of vehicles used across the NHS and therefore this member of staff could be from any of the 32 local authorities or any NHS or private hospital and it would be impossible to establish exactly who employs this person without contacting every organisation.

Since then, silence.

So there you are. A vehicle which is covered in NHS livery, and which bears the word AMBULANCE on the back, and which is plainly a local Waltham Forest vehicle, cannot be identified by the local NHS primary healthcare trust.