POPULAR volunteers who take patients to and from Broomfield Hospital for treatment will be retained by the service’s new bosses.

The commitment comes after concerns were raised over the future the non-emergency patient transport service, which was run by the East of England Ambulance Service since 2006.

The Mid Essex Clinical Commissioning Group put the contract out to tender, turned down a bid from the ambulance service and plumped for ERS Medical’s offer instead.

This prompted fears over the future of volunteers from regular passengers, who describe the drivers as “phenomenal”.

However, bosses at ERS have said they will be looking to keep hold of these drivers as they know how popular they are.

Adrian Haigh, director of operations, said: “These groups are considered to be ‘unsung heroes’ in the local area and we welcome their support.

“It’s of utmost importance to us that patients are not affected by this transitional period and we will continue to provide the familiar faces they’ve grown to know.”

Ambulance bosses told the Weekly News they were keen to continue running the service - and have been left disappointed by the snub.

Gary Morgan, head of non-emergency services, said: “We put in a strong bid to run this service, as we believe the NHS ambulance service is best placed to run patient transport and deliver quality services to patients.

“Unfortunately we were not successful and are working with staff to ensure they are supported through the transition to the new provider.”