Christine Tongue: Getting at the truth

St Thomas Hospital Photo Adrian Pingstone via Wikimedia Commons

What do you do when a big organisation says something that you believe simply isn’t true?

Whistleblowers have a hard time. Staff in our hospitals daren’t speak out about how much they oppose appalling proposals like closing our local stroke unit. They fear for their jobs and their promotion prospects.

One NHS worker I know is planning to set up a house cleaning business as being less stressful than dealing with management who seem to not mind endangering patients. Speaking out is just not possible – or not believed.

Another, who works for a private healthcare firm, is doing work above her pay grade as there’s no one else to deal with it. But she’s changing her job rather than blow whistles.

So, when you get a chance to catch out a big company you have a duty to speak out.

When my partner was being discharged from St Thomas’s hospital after major heart surgery he was supposed to get transport organised by the health trust who sent him there in the first place. In Thanet’s case transport from G4S.

The ward organised transport for 5.30pm. It didn’t turn up. At 7.30pm I asked the nurse in charge what had happened. It took her ages to get through to G4S and finally she found it had been mysteriously cancelled.

Transport was rebooked and was supposed to turn up very quickly as we were at the top of their list. By this time we were in the patient “lounge” (a six seater cupboard full of people waiting to be admitted) as someone was in the bed my partner had vacated.

At 10.30pm I asked again. The car had broken down on the M25. In desperation I got us a taxi. Arriving home at 1.30am I had to pay £150 – in cash – to the driver.

St Thomas’s took up our case as a complaint and were very worried about G4S – apparently this happens a lot. Cars cancelled, long waits, unsuitable transport for fragile patients etc etc.

Eventually I heard from the finance department who said I’d be reimbursed for the taxi fare. Hurray.

I then got a call from the ward manager saying a G4S boss had been in touch with her and their driver had said he had picked up the patient and taken us to Thanet. Boo!!!  That simply hadn’t happened.

The ward manager was quite clear that she believed me and was very surprised that they had been prepared to assert the job had been done correctly. She said she’d go on investigating.

A month later, out of the blue, I got a cheque for £150 from G4S. No apology, no acknowledgement of their mistake.

So here I am telling the story and happy to hear from anyone else who has had problems with patient transport. It’s our CCG who decides how transport is organised. Let’s find out why they use a service that consistently lets people down and potentially endangers patients’ lives.


  1. Raised this issue at Kent County Council when g4s failed to do their job properly, the tories renewed their contract without penalty, they have taken the money without doing the job, shame on them

  2. The above article raises concern not only for myself but my 75 year old brother. He has to travel to Maidstone every week for 2 weeks for radiotherapy treatment after his Chemo treatment. As his immunity systems are low and he is advised not to mix in public. What chances has he got with G4s. He has been advised to contact the hospital providing treatment. What chances has he got for a patient transport car.

  3. The CCG is about to renew the failed contract with G4S, even after the CCG acknowledged that targets were only met 34% of the time

  4. Whistle blowers are targeted mercilessly and colleagues are powerless to intervene as they will get the same. These people have mortgages and rent to pay. The ‘management’ needs a complete overhaul with grassroots workers taking over

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