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Reflections on an NHS ambulance service trust bidding for non-emergency patient transport services

Alan Slater (University of Huddersfield, Huddersfield, UK)

International Journal of Emergency Services

ISSN: 2047-0894

Article publication date: 30 November 2020

Issue publication date: 6 April 2021




Ambulance service trusts in England have historically had little or no competition for non-emergency patient transport services (NEPTS), but following the imposition of the NHS Procurement, Patient Choice and Competition (PPCC) Regulation (Number 2) 2013, NHS commissioners could accept suitable bids for NEPTS work from third-party commercial competition. This paper describes how NEPTS evolved in England and how an Ambulance Service Trust Board had to step-up their approach to bidding for NHS NEPTS work and to protect their brand and financial position in a competitive commercial market place.


The Trust Board developed a competitive bidding strategy with a market research project using “grounded theory” to identify and categorise stakeholders' issues followed by re-engineering to achieve new operational goals. A fundamental element of the bid was an opportunity to share patient information between local NHS facilities using a common access data warehouse. This would represent a serious barrier to entry to any third-party non-NHS commercial competitor.


Key projects were identified in the bidding process, including relocation of NEPTS resource bases, use of third-party resources and the establishment of a local NHS-wide data warehouse. They were all self-financing within the contract period and accepted by the commissioners. However, the establishment of NEPTS hubs at hospitals with clinics scattered throughout their grounds was rejected by the commissioners due to incompatibility with existing hospital practices.


This case study defines the challenges and opportunities faced by an English Ambulance Service Trust Board when responding to an invitation to tender (ITT) from NHS commissioners for NEPTS and competing with third-parties on a commercial basis. Any emergency service would face similar challenges bidding for work in a competitive environment.



The author wishes to acknowledge the assistance given anonymously by both NHS staff and patients in the data collection for the case study.


Slater, A. (2021), "Reflections on an NHS ambulance service trust bidding for non-emergency patient transport services", International Journal of Emergency Services, Vol. 10 No. 1, pp. 147-157.



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