Deutsche Bahn (DB), the German state-owned rail and logistics giant that operates many of Britain’s railway trains, is now looking to profit from running NHS ambulances.
Not that DB’s presence is immediately obvious – DB operates in Britain under the cloak of the Arriva branding. It made huge profits from Britain’s privatised and fragmented railways, and used them to invest in German public transport at the expense of British taxpayers. DB is now looking to perform the same trick in the rapidly fragmenting and privatised NHS.
An angry protest by over 100 ambulance workers was held outside Parliament on 10 December, supported by Unison General Secretary Dave Prentis and Shadow Health Minister Andy Burnham. The protesters condemned the decision to transfer Manchester’s non-emergency patient transport service from the NHS in March 2013. The in-house NHS bid beat DB/Arriva on quality but lost on price.
Unison fears this latest move will lead to a poor service for vulnerable patients and act as a blueprint for cuts elsewhere. DB/Arriva had already won a contract to operate the non-emergency ambulances formerly run by the East Midlands Ambulance Service from 1 July 2012. Despite massive public protest, DB/Arriva closed up to 70 ambulance stations spread across Leicestershire, Rutland, Nottinghamshire and Bassetlaw and replaced them with 13 larger hubs to save cash.
MPs Graham Stringer and Paul Goggins from Wythenshawe and Sale East tabled a Commons Early Day Motion, saying they were “appalled” at the latest move by DB/Arriva, claiming that the Care Quality Commission during its inspection of the company’s ambulance transport service in Leicestershire found it was not meeting standards in staffing, cleanliness and infection control.
More than 14,000 people have already signed a petition against the awarding to DB/Arriva of the Manchester contract. Doubtless many more would do so if they realised who was taking over their ambulance services.
• Arriva London North bus drivers went on strike over pay at the end of November. They have not received a pay rise in the past two years. The 24-hour strike caused severe delays and cancellations throughout north London. Further strikes by the 2,300 Unite members are possible in the New Year if a settlement is not reached. ■