The local NHS is reassuring those who rely on their Non-Emergency Patient Transport Service that all their needs will still be met through a high quality, patient-centred and responsive service, after the tender process for a new provider was paused.

The non-Emergency Patient Transport Service (NEPTS) provides transport for eligible patients to and from their place of residence and Sussex NHS-funded health care facilities

Sussex NHS Commissioners are responsible for the purchase and delivery (procurement) of NHS healthcare services for the local population, including NEPTS, through open tendering processes that allow providers to bid for service provision in a competitive and fair way. They had planned to go out to tender for NEPTS in Sussex this year. However, the prolonged continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing escalation of pressures on all healthcare resources has impacted upon this planned timetable.

To ensure the safe continuation of the service, an extension to the existing provision is being sought with the current provider, South Central Ambulance Service, as their contract was due to expire on 31 March 2022, Subject to agreement, SCAS will continue to provide the service for an additional 6 months, with Commissioners reserving the right to extended for a further 6 months, representing a maximum of 12 months, to expire on 31 March 2023 (through a single tender waiver application process).

Sussex CCGs are committed to ensuring that all procurement processes are fair, open and transparent. As NEPTS providers have been working under extreme pressure to continue to meet patient needs throughout the Covid-19 pandemic (including now supporting the COVID-19 vaccination rollout), running a procurement would unfairly detract many of the interested bidders’ focus from the vital role they continue to play

Pausing the tender process does offer benefits to patients:

  • It provides the opportunity for the learning and recommendations from the NEPTS National Review report to be included in the new tender, as publication has been delayed due to the pandemic.
  • It will offer the opportunity to fully incorporate lessons being learnt during the COVID-19 pandemic, and longer-term changes to the way patients access services.
  • It will ensure that potential bidders have the capacity to ender a competitive tender process, optimising the commissioner’s ability to secure a high quality and responsive NEPTS that represents best value for patients

Peter Kottlar, Executive Managing Director at Sussex NHS Commissioners, said:

“We are committed to providing a high quality, patient-centred and responsive NEPTS, which represents value for money, is resilient, environmentally efficient and is innovative in the use of information technology to communicate with users.

“Due to the pandemic we have had to examine alternative options to the original plans to proceed to the procurement of the NEPTS service in February 2021. Given the continued challenges, we believe this extension of the current contracting arrangements is required to ensure all interested providers are in a position to tender for the new service in a fair and equitable way”.