I had the opportunity to speak with David Davis, a Director from Coperforma who looks after communications for the company. This has all kicked off following a tweet I sent this week, after my mum was let down again by the patient transport supplied by this company.
My mum is so tired from her cancer treatment and is constantly being left waiting hours by @CoperformaLtd and their ‘award winning’ service.
— Emily Wilkinson (@ewilko) October 11, 2016
Why I am complaining
To give a short background on this situation, my mum is currently having chemotherapy and radiotherapy in Brighton, 5 times a week. She is based in Hastings and relies on the patient transport to take her to and from her appointments. She is currently on week 3 of her treatment.
Every week it is the same – I get an update on how they haven’t showed up and she is left waiting for hours for a vehicle.
This week started off badly with the pick-ups from home being late and mum having to let the hospital know that she will miss her appointment. On a day where she has chemo followed by radio, it is long enough without this additional hassle. For those with a lack of geographic knowledge of the South East coast, the commute is around 1 – 1.5 hours each way, dependant on traffic.
On Tuesday, she was out at 13:00. The request was put in, no driver was allotted by Coperforma and she was left waiting 4.5 hours. In the end they ordered her a taxi.
I put in a complaint via email, listing all the problems we’ve had to-date but I also decided to tweet it and post on their Facebook Page. It turns out, public shaming gets attention fairly quickly. I received an email from David that evening, asking to speak in the morning in more detail.
What happened when we spoke
This isn’t a transcript, I didn’t record it but I noted down the odd line he said. I’m impressed with the speed of response and appreciate the personal apology but i’m not convinced by everything he said. However the case is being investigated, so we’ll see what happens.
I’ve bulleted the points that came out of the call.
- He felt my tweet was out of character of other, recent tweets. Most are positive so mine stood out.
- He admitted that when coperforma took over in April 2016 they screwed up and let people down, they rectified this as quickly as possible.
- He stated that the service is “back on keel, operating well across the whole of the country”
- The level of complaints has dropped dramatically, leading him to believe things are better (and support the above claim).
- Coperforma do not own any vehicle nor hire any drivers, this is all sub-contacted.
- Coperforma employ call centre staff and managers only (based in an office in Thruxton). Everything is managed using software, providing an ‘uber concept’ for non-emergency vehicles.
- He was surprised I knew who they were, he wouldn’t have expected the drivers to give the name Coperforma.
- There is a member of Coperforma staff at every hospital, to be there for patients.
- He stressed this was an NHS service and asked me if I understood the process of the contract (I let him know that I understood what tendering was).
- He admitted that there is a “technical issue” with their system but that he didn’t understand it, but it was being looked into.
- He mention there is a feedback group operating for patients to use.
- He told me to keep in touch if there are any further problems in the interim.
David is a journalist by trade and has been in the NHS transport service circuit for 8 years, so he knows how to deal with people. The call wasn’t angry, there were no raised voices and I allowed him to get his side of the story across (before having all the information about my individual case).
What concerns me is that figures can be manipulated and the service might be an improvement on its situation in April, but there is no way it could be considered fixed.
— Coperforma Ltd (@CoperformaLtd) March 27, 2016
It isn’t just my mum that has had these issues, she has made friends with other patients having the same problems. Have they made a formal complaint? Probably not. A large percentage of the patients my mum sees at the hospital are elderly. Not to generalise too much, but I am doubtful they are going to be tweeting about their experience or when they get home, exhausted after treatment, they probably don’t want to ‘make a fuss’ and complain.
It’s easy to hide behind processes and technology but I feel there is a real problem with how this is operating. The fundamental issue is, this isn’t retail – you can’t just take your money elsewhere or demand a refund. This is an essential support service for people receiving treatment.
Senior managers are fed information from team leaders and associate directors – are they giving the real picture to the board directors at Coperforma? Are they reporting that their third-parties are failing? I’d like to hope that they are but in a company that is likely to be KPI driven, I doubt anyone wants to look like they’re failing at their job.
These are real people, who have real lives and are facing emotional and physical challenges. This has to get better.
Have you had an experience with coperforma? Good or bad? Let me know in the comment section below.