“Revealed: Collapsed private provider to the NHS owes £11m”

“A patient transport company which collapsed after it withdrew from a key NHS contract owes more than £11m, including to the NHS, statements filed with Companies House have revealed.

Liquidators winding up Coperforma have found just a few thousand pounds in the company’s bank accounts. But the papers also showed the company owes £11.3m to unsecured creditors, including NHS organisations and suppliers of ambulances and staff.

Clinical commissioning groups in Sussex – where Coperforma won a patient transport service contract in 2016 – have claimed the company owes them £7.6m. In a statement, the county’s CCGs said: “The Sussex CCGs are actively pursuing all options to maximise recovery for the NHS of costs incurred as a result of the failure of the patient transport service contract.

“In particular, the CCGs are pursuing legal recovery against an associated party of Coperforma which provided a parent company guarantee. The CCG is currently unable to publicly give more details for legal reasons.”

Companies House lists Guernsey-based Seabourn Ltd as a “person with significant control” in Coperforma.

Coperforma claims instead that the CCGs owe it nearly £2.5m, although the documents lodged at Companies House showed the liquidators and their solicitors felt “there was not sufficient evidence to progress recovery”. The CCGs’ claim could be offset against this, it was suggested. This could still leave the CCGs owed more than £5m.

The liquidators are also investigating “potential antecedent transactions” involving the firm, although they will not say who was involved in this. These transactions normally involve the transfer of money out of a firm before it becomes insolvent.

Earlier documents, from just after the company went into administration in early 2018, suggested it had assets of around £400,000, excluding the money it said it was owed by the CCGs. It also owed £377,449 to “trade and expense creditors”.

Coperforma took over the Sussex PTS contract in April 2016, having been the only bidder for a contract which split the transport side of the service from the scheduling of ambulances. It struggled to deliver the service, with many patients arriving late for appointments or being left in hospital. Two of its subcontractors went into administration and the CCG had to pay some staff wages to make sure the service kept going.

Following growing complaints from commissioners and patients and a critical Care Quality Commission report, the company abandoned the £16m a year contract in November 2016. It was handed to South Central Ambulance Service Foundation Trust.

The Sussex CCGs involved were Eastbourne, Hailsham and Seaford; Hastings and Rother; Brighton and Hove; Coastal West Sussex; Horsham and Mid Sussex; Crawley; and High Weald Lewes Havens, which led on the PTS procurement.”