A union claims patient care has been put at risk after a private firm was handed a contract to provide non-emergency transport to and from hospital.

Mid Essex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has handed ERS Medical a five year contract to take over the service from the East of England Ambulance Service from the start of April.

The CCG commissions healthcare for the Braintree, Chelmsford and Maldon districts.

Unison regional organiser Tim Roberts said: “The public expects key health services to be run by the NHS and not some private company that prioritises shareholder profit over patient care.”

A CCG spokesman said: "Patient safety is of paramount importance to the CCG in all the services it commissions on behalf of the people it serves in mid Essex.

"Patients can be assured that they will receive a safe and high standard patient transport service."

He added: "The opportunity to tender was open to all sectors, including NHS and private organisations, in line with national procurement regulations."