"Service changeover could be handled better"

About: Adult community services / Continence advisory service

(as a parent/guardian),

My stepdaughter is 20, has severe learning difficulties and is incontinent. I have previously fed back on changes to the continence service which were positive and helpful for us. For the last year or so, the continence products delivery service has been managed by Ontex. The process was very simple. When we needed product, we called up, selected the number for the area we live in and then we were immediately put through to someone who gave us a delivery date. All in all, it was a very prompt, efficient and customer friendly service.

We were recently informed by letter that the service provider would change from next week. The letter advised us that current deliveries would remain the same and that we would be contacted about the new delivery process in due course. So far so good. I called Ontex today to arrange a delivery to be told that because of the next week's handover to the new provider Tena they were no longer taking any further deliveries. They gave me Tena's number so I could call them and they believed that my stepdaughter's usual delivery information (including size, quantity, delivery address etc) would have been transferred over to Tena's system.

I then called Tena only to find that to proceed with our order I need a unique patient ID. Not to worry, I thought, I can speak to someone and explain the situation and place the order. What I discovered is that placing orders involves using an automated phone ordering system which requires the unique patient ID that we have not yet been advised of. The only option that actually promises you can speak to a human being is the one that looks after current orders. When I selected that option, I was informed they were busy, there was no one to take my call and there was not even an option to leave a voice mail.

I will keep an open mind but so far the Tena customer experience feels a lot more detached and a lot less customer friendly than the Ontex one. I work with the NHS every day and I understand fully the huge pressures there are on services to reduce cost. Obviously I understand automating the process online is likely to help reduce cost. However when retendering for the delivery service, you would have thought there would have been some consultation with service users to find out what works best for them. The first we knew of it was the fait accompli letter telling us about the service change. Surely a truly patient centred service starts with the patients and what they want and need?

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Update posted by Frankly1972 (a parent/guardian)

I am bit disappointed my feedback hasn't received some kind of acknowledgement or response. Somewhat ironically later last week we did finally receive a letter explaining the new process and providing all the information we need. The letter itself was dated November 25th which was the day I posted my story on Patient Opinon. The bit I don't know is whether that letter was always going to be sent out on that date or whether my comments prompted this to happen.

Response from Kerry Hollingworth, Corporate Affairs Officer, The Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust

Firstly, apologies for the delay in replying to your posting. I’m sorry to hear your first experience of the new pad provider has been so poor. I have also passed your posting on to SCA.

As you rightly point out service users should be involved in service changes. In regard to this contract change a small group of our patients evaluated the pads supplied by SCA and provided valuable feedback in regard to product quality and performance. Unfortunately given the number of patients who currently receive pads from our service it was not possible to offer everyone the opportunity to participate in this evaluation.

The technical elements of the service I.e. the company software package and the various methods of generating deliveries were evaluated via a competitive tendering process led by the North of England Commercial Procurement Collaborative. I will pass your posting on to the North of England Commercial Procurement Collaborative as they may like to consider greater patient involvement in deciding contracts such as these.

I do appreciate the impact changes such as the ones made in regard to your pad supplier can have. We will be monitoring the quality of service provided to our patients and will be undertaking service satisfaction surveys at six monthly intervals. The first survey will take place during May 2015, six months after the start of the new contract. We will randomly select 5% of patients from the caseload to receive this survey. The result if this survey will form part of the quarterly cycle review meetings which will take place with SCA.

We will also be inviting a member of our service user group to attend these meetings to provide direct service user input and expertise. Representatives from SCA will also be invited to attend service user group meetings. Next year’s dates are; 4th February, 29th April, 29th July, 28th October and 2nd December.

Anyone who uses our service is welcome to attend, please contact us on 01709 423369 if you require further information regarding these meetings.

With regard to the letter referred to in your later posting, this is a standard letter which will have been sent to all current service users. I am sorry placing your first order with SCA was so difficult and time consuming and thank you for feeding back your experience.

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