THE COUNTY’S hospital transport provider has come under fresh criticism from a disabled Stonehouse man.

Sixty seven year old Brian Cropton, who uses a walker and mobility scooter, claims he has missed important doctors’ appointments because Arriva Transport Solutions arrived hours late or didn’t turn up at all.

Mr Cropton says the company has on one occasion refused to take him home because of issues with his scooter, leaving him to spend £25 of his disability allowance on taxi fares.

He has accused the private health contractor of putting his health at risk and repeatedly leaving him stranded without access to transportation.

“I’m at the end of my tether now,” said Mr Cropton. “They have let me down so many times. Any trust for them has slowly disappeared.

“A few weeks ago they arrived five hours late and on one occasion they didn’t bother to turn up at all.

“It was a complete waste of time. I’d missed my appointment by hours. Plus it sometimes takes me 27 minutes to get through on the phone to book a lift.

“Once when they did take me to Gloucestershire Royal, they then for some reason say they couldn’t take me back in the same vehicle because my mobility scooter is now too big. It’s ridiculous.”

Mr Cropton, who lives with his wife, has used the non-emergency transport service for two years, but says its service has deteriorated over the past three months.

Earlier this year the private health contractor came under pressure from Gloucestershire County Council, who told the contractor was told it was “putting profit before service” and needed to make serious changes.

“I’ve seen so many complaints against Arriva. It’s just getting worse and worse and it’s not fair on the people who use the service,” added Mr Cropton.

“Gloucestershire NHS Trust need to pull their finger out and finally say to Arriva; ‘we have enough of this’ and get rid of them. I just don’t understand why they employ them.

“It’s not like have any other choice either. Unfortunately Arriva is all there is. Neither my wife nor I can drive.

“On two occasions now I’ve been completely stranded without and any transport. I was left with no choice but to call a taxi with a special ramp to take me home. Each time it’s cost £25.”

Mr Cropton, who suffers from diabetes, had an MRI scan earlier this year and was diagnosed with Scheuermann's disease, a condition which curved the spine and causes back pain.

But he has now missed or had to reschedule two important specialist appointments.

“I missed one appointment at Stroud General Hospital and another at Southmead," he added.

“I had to reschedule the visit to Bristol for December, but I’m worried they’ll mess that up too. The taxi fare home then would be huge.

“I’ve made a complaint at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital but you just can’t win anymore. Arriva aren’t interested. But until the hospitals do something about this people will continue to suffer.”

Andrew Cullen, head of Patient Transport Service at Arriva Transport Solutions, said: “I would like to apologise to Mr Cropton for his recent experience of our patient transport service.

“The crew assigned to transport Mr Cropton on November 24 was delayed picking up a previous patient whose mobility required a higher level of care than we were notified of at the booking stage. Regrettably this delay meant the crew were unable to pick up Mr Cropton at the specified time.

“Avoidable delays such as this have a significant knock-on effect on our service and we are working with our healthcare colleagues to ensure we are provided with the necessary information to carry out each journey safely and efficiently.

“We will make a further assessment of Mr Cropton’s mobility requirements prior to any future patient transport journeys to ensure that the allocated vehicle type is appropriate for his scooter; alternatively we will provide him with a wheelchair during his journey with us.”

Local county councillor Lesley Williams (Labour) said: “I wish I could say that I was shocked by the treatment that Mr Cropton has received, but unfortunately with increasing levels of cuts and steady tide of NHS privatisation this is becoming all too common.

Stroud News and Journal:

“I would like thank Mr Cropton for coming forward with his story though, and I will get in touch with him to see what I can do to help him with the issues that he has raised.

“I firmly believe that everyone should be treated with respect, and I don’t believe that he has been here.”

In July members of Gloucestershire County Council's Health and Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee told Arriva it must improve.

It followed an official warning in late 2015 for “consistent failure to achieve a number of required Key Performance Indicator standards”.

The report found the company was missing key targets in getting patients to appointments and picking them up afterwards.

At the time the Arriva bosses said they were "committed" to bringing about improvements, but added increasing numbers of patients combined with more complex transport needs had placed increased pressure on services.

However, Cllr Roger Wilson accused them of skimping on resources, saying: “This is a private sector initiative where profit is being put before service.”

The private company has contracts with the NHS in Bath and North East Somerset, Gloucestershire, Swindon and Wiltshire but has failed to perform over the past three years.

The Non-Emergency Patient Transport Service in Gloucestershire is for patients who need to travel to and from an appointment at a hospital or clinic, are discharged from hospital, or need to transfer between centres and because of their medical condition, cannot make their own way.