Driver hits out at kidney swap

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A VOLUNTEER driver who gives his time once a week to transport kidney patients to hospital for dialysis has hit out at plans to replace the service provided by him and ambulance workers with a city taxi firm.

The man, who did not want to be named, said he was concerned about the loss of the renal transport contract from the Yorkshire Ambulance Service and the implications for patients of switching it to the City Taxis firm.

The volunteer, who has been giving his time with the Medicar service in Sheffield for the past seven years, said: “My concern is for the patients and the paid staff - I am only a volunteer and I will simply move to outpatients appointment transport duties - but I am worried about what will happen to them.

“Even as a Medicar driver volunteer I have had to have police checks, go on first aid courses, and attend health and safety programmes. I’ve also been taught how to manage and handle people so if they need help getting to and from the car I can help them properly and safely. “I am worried that taxi drivers won’t have the same type of training.”

The decision to end the contract was led by NHS Rotherham, but also affects kidney patients living and having treatment in Sheffield, Barnsley and Doncaster. The job implications for the ambulance trust workers have not yet been made clear, although some meetings with trade union representatives and members of the human resources department have already taken place with more to follow.

Nigel Parkes, from NHS Rotherham, said the new service would be more focused, delivered by regular drivers, and targeted to meet individuals’ needs, adding that renal patients do not generally need medical help during the journey.

“The new service specification has been designed to a higher standard than the previous contract with Yorkshire Ambulance Service,” he said. “In particular it demands improved punctuality, better patient experience and more flexibility.”