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Security firm G4S has ‘unprecedented levels’ of complaints

Scandal-hit security firm G4S has received ‘unprecedented levels’ of complaints after taking over a private ambulance service.

A scathing report reveals it has had 1,700 complaints since it began to transport patients unable to get to and from hospitals in Medway and Kent for free last year. 

One angry patient reported missing an appointment she had waited a year for, others criticised the free service for being routinely late. 

The family of a terminally ill man claimed he was forced to endure a day wait to be taken home from hospital, wasting precious moments. 

It follows a chain of worrying allegations against G4S in recent years, as the firm has been heavily criticised for its shoddy service in prisons, detention centres and at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Medway Clinical Commissioning Group, which plans and pays for primary health services, has called for urgent action from the firm. 

The performance report, published by Medway CCG, announced it was ‘concerned’ and has asked for the issues to be rectified.

Medway Clinical Commissioning Group (which runs Medway NHS Foundation Trust), which plans and pays for primary health services, has called for urgent action from the firm

It said: ‘We are concerned about the unprecedented level of complaints regarding the service and the way in which G4S is handling and responding to complaints.’

‘The commissioners sought urgent action to rectify the common themes emerging from complaints and to improve the complaints process so they are managed in a timely and professional manner.’  

Taking over the contract 

G4S took over the £90 million contract at the start of July last year, when troubled previous operators NSL opted not to seek a contract renewal.

Between July 2016 and this July, G4S received 1,774 complaints, with 1,170 of these relating to lateness of journeys for outpatient appointments.

A performance report discussed by Medway Council shows that G4S has not been meeting key targets set upon them.


Scandal-hit G4S was founded in 2004 following the merger of Group 4 Falck and Securicor. It employs nearly 600,000 people around the world.

It provides security staff across the globe to control prisons, keep safe eyes on expensive equipment and runs security systems, among other requests.

However, since its inception it has become embroiled in a number of controversies. 


Wackenhut, a company owned by G4S, allegedly made several security lapses at seven military bases in 2005. It was brought on board to free up soldiers to fight in Iraq.


Detention centres ran by G4S were the subject of more than 700 complaints in 2010. Angry detainees alleged that staff were racist and assaulted them.

Nine staff were suspended from a G4S immigration centre after claims of abuse and assaults against detainees last month, following a BBC Panorama probe. 


The controversial firm was also in the spotlight the following summer. Bungling staff electronically tagged the prosthetic limb of a one-legged criminal. They were later sacked as the patient was able to leave his house without setting off alarms.

In March this year, criminals were said to be in line for payouts after a G4S tagging blunder which could have seen many mistakenly sent back to prison.


G4S won a £284 million contract to run the security at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Their organisation was heavily criticised and described as ‘totally chaotic’.

Three G4S guards found themselves probed over the death of a 46-year-old Angolan man in October 2010. The staff restrained and held Jimmy Mubenga down while on a plane. He died later that evening.


Last September, G4S was fined $151,400 (£115,000) for falsely claiming that Orlando mass shooter Omar Mateen had passed psychological testing. He went on to kill 49 people at the gay nightclub Pulse. 


A 15-hour riot in a Birmingham prison last December was blamed on poor staffing levels by G4S. Helicopters and dog units were needed to retake control.  

The council’s health overview and scrutiny committee has been told vehicles and staff are not always sufficient.

G4S previously admitted teething problems and in March said it was mobilising more staff to deal with a greater than expected demand. 

Action taken 

Medway CCG issued G4S with a notice to improve in July. An action plan was drawn up which included a review of the complaints policy.

It was also devised to revise the complaints process and improve the reporting and response times of the private ambulances. 

Progress is currently being monitored and as of August 21, 60 per cent of the actions had been completed.

The remaining actions are expected to be completed by the end of this month.

Russell Hobbs, managing director for non-emergency patient transport services at G4S, defended his firm’s record.

He said: ‘We have experienced high demand for non-emergency patient transport services and have taken steps to improve patient awareness of the complaints procedure.’

What did G4S say?

In August, G4S provided 28,681 journeys across Kent and there were 38 formal complaints raised.

Mr Hobbs said that this ‘represents less than one per cent of the total journeys undertaken’.

He continued: ‘We take every single complaint seriously and thoroughly investigate each concern.

‘We have also improved the way we handle complaints when they are received, including training additional staff.’ 


The news comes after a 56-year-old woman urged G4S to get its act together after a spate of missed appointments and long waits for a private ambulance. 

Jaine Meredith-Kite, who has a degenerative muscle-wasting condition, said she found getting to appointments an uphill battle since the firm took over.

Her illness means she is unable to drive and barely able to walk and needs regular check ups on the condition of important muscles, including her heart.

She missed two medical appointments including one for a heart check-up in Rochester, something she had waited a year for.

G4S told her it didn’t have a suitable vehicle to collect her from her home in Larkfield.

She was also late for another meeting and left waiting for five hours after a consultation.

Mrs Meredith-Kite said G4S had been slow to respond to complaints. She added: ‘G4S is really failing to provide transport to Kent patients.

‘I also feel very strongly it is inconveniencing hospital staff. I have heard many other patients with the same problem.’


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