NHS spending on private ambulances soars to meet demand (The Telegraph: 10 August 2015)

Ambulance services are becoming increasingly reliant on the private sector to cope with rising demand on the NHS.

In 2014-15, England’s 10 ambulance services spent £57.6m on private or voluntary services - an increase of 156 per cent since 2010-11.

The College of Paramedics criticised the reliance on the private sector as a “short term solution”, saying that the ambulance service needs to find more sustainable options as there are “currently not enough paramedics to provide a safe and effective service”.


The last year saw the NHS spend record amounts on private ambulance services, as it forked out £41m to companies such as Medical Services Ltd and ERS Medical.

The top spender on private services was the South Central Service, spending £12.3m in 2014-15. The trust had 250 vacancies open at the end of last year.


NHS crisis: Thousands of patients sent taxis instead of ambulances after ringing 999 (Express: 16 July 2015) 

A staggering 6,300 patients in London were taken to A&E in private taxis between September and February, according to shocking new figures.

The Yorkshire Ambulance Service even used taxis for 'Red 2' calls – the code for potentially life-threatening cases such as suspected strokes.

The figures come as experts claim the country's 11 ambulance trusts face a major shortage of paramedics.

Many private minicabs are instead staffed by technicians – some with just a few weeks training, according to the College of Emergency Medicine.

Kathryn Murphy of the Patients Association criticised the findings, released under Freedom of Information laws.

She: "The thing that concerns me is that just because the service is under pressure doesn't mean that you should compromise the safety of patients."

Last month it was revealed that the London Ambulance Service's spending on minicabs has more than doubled since 2013 – soaring from £132,000 to almost £300,000.... read more


Nearly £8 million cost of private ambulances to cope with 999 demand (Leicester Mercury: 30 January 2015)

Bosses at East Midlands Ambulance Service (Emas) have spent nearly £8 million on hiring private companies to help cope with emergency calls, according the latest figures. A total of £4.3 million was spent between April 2013 and the end of March last year. A further £3.5 million has been spent between April 1 and the end of December last year. Officials said the extra help is needed to deal with increased demand.

Over the Christmas and New Year period Emas crews across the region dealt with 5,448 more calls - an eight per cent increase - on the same period the previous year. Bosses are recruiting more front line to help meet demand but with three years at university to be trained to paramedic level it will be sometime before they can take to the road. It is hoped that an extra 80 staff will join Emas by the end of the year and that reliance on private and voluntary services will be reduced. Tim Slater, Emas general manager for Leicestershire and Rutland said: “Voluntary and private ambulance services provide us with additional resources when we experience significant increases in the number of 999 calls received.... read more


Ambulance Services Spent £5m On Private Crews (Orange News: 2 March 2015)

Ambulance services were forced to spend more than £5m hiring private crews and charities to cope with the winter A&E crisis as tens of thousands of hours were wasted queuing outside hospitals, a Sky News investigation has found.

Over the four weeks covering the last two weeks of December and first two weeks of January, some 1,780 days of operational time was lost because hospitals were too full to admit patients.

The 42,726 hours of delays are equivalent to taking 64 ambulances out of service at the same time.

On 11,203 occasions over that period crews waited more than an hour to hand over emergency patients, the figures show.

Patients experienced handover delays of more than half an hour 39,523 times.

One service said the delays its crews experienced were twice those of the previous winter.

As a result of the delays and the unprecedented pressure, services had to pay for private ambulances to respond to calls instead landing them with a bill of £3.79m.

They also spent £1.23m on charity-run ambulances such as Red Cross to help ease the crisis.... read more


Private ambulance spending in London rises 'tenfold' (BBC News: 22 October 2014)

Spending on private ambulances in London grew by 1,000% between 2011 and 2013, the Labour Party has claimed.

The NHS spent £8.84m on private ambulances in the capital last year compared to £795,000 in 2011, according to a Freedom of Information request.

The London Ambulance Service said it was losing staff due to "pressure on the organisation".


Private firm takes over NHS East of England transport service despite objections (Essex Chronicle: 1 May 2014)

The subsidiary of a hazardous waste courier service will begin its contract to transport non-emergency patients today (May 1) after a month delay. ERS Medical was originally due to take charge from the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust on April 1 but objections have allegedly stalled the process. ERS Medical has provided services to the NHS nationwide for 13 years but the EEAST has provided the East of England service single-handedly for the last eight years.

“We're excited about providing this new and improved service for the local community and will be using new technology, a fleet of all new vehicles and the highest standards of staff training to ensure we deliver outstanding levels of patient care,” added Mr Fatchett.

Also speaking to the Chronicle in January, Unison regional organiser Tim Roberts said: “Our members (NHS staff) are very worried about this. They think it’s fundamentally wrong that a contract will go to a profit-making private company.”


EMAS spending £7m on private ambulances due to lack of staff  (Nottingham Post: 20 March 2014)

PRIVATE companies and volunteers were paid £7 million last year to respond to 999 calls – because the ambulance service did not have enough staff.

The figure is more than twice as much as East Midlands Ambulance Service spent in the previous year and seven times higher than in 2010.

The news comes just a week after the Post revealed that the service’s own ambulances were being left unused for up to 12 hours, hundreds of times a month, because of a shortage of paramedics.

However, EMAS says it is currently recruiting more frontline staff and it expects to spend less on cover from outside bodies in coming years.


NHS spending doubles on private ambulances used for 999 calls (Daily Telegraph: 9 April 2014)

Spending on private firms to provide 999 ambulances across swathes of Britain has doubled in three years, an investigation has found.

Senior medics and safety campaigners said they fear patient safety is being jeopardised by a heavy reliance on commercial firms to answer emergency calls.

An investigation by The Telegraph reveals that the amount spent by the NHS on private and voluntary services to provide 999 care has risen from £24m to £56m in three years.

The College of Emergency Medicine last night said the routine use of the firms was “incredibly wasteful and potentially dangerous” – with too little oversight of private firms which provide the service.


Private firm lands NHS transport deal (This is Staffordshire: 28 May 2013)

A multi-million pound NHS contract to transport hundreds of patients a day across North Staffordshire has been awarded to a private company. NHS leaders have stripped West Midlands Ambulance Service of the contract after more than four years. Instead, the £3 million annual deal has been struck with London-based NSL. The contract has been awarded by the GP-led North Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) less than a month after they took over the running of the NHS.


Concerns raised over appointment of private sector ambulance chief to top NHS role at East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EDP24: 16 May 2013)

A health minister and a union have raised concerns with the region’s ambulance service over the appointment of a private sector chief to a top NHS role. The fears were raised with the East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) by Unison and by health minister Norman Lamb after private ambulance boss Rob Ashford was appointed to a £100,000 a year post at the trust. Mr Ashford is currently chief executive of private ambulance provider Thames Group, which has received more than £1.3m in the last year from the EEAST. His appointment came weeks after £340,000 was spent by the trust on hiring ambulances from Thames Group.


Private firms win two more NHS contracts (This is Cornwall: 1 May 2013)

Unions have lamented a "sad day for the NHS" after contracts to run two parts of the health service were handed to the private sector. In one announcement, NSL, a company behind on-street parking and enforcement across the UK, was earmarked as taking over non-urgent patient transport services in most of Devon and Cornwall from South Western Ambulance.


Private ambulances 'risk patient safety' (BBC News: 21 April 2013)

An apparent increase in the use of private ambulances in the NHS is a risk to patient safety, Labour has warned. It says freedom of information requests show spending on private vehicles by three English ambulance services rose by millions over two years. Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said the services were "being privatised without proper debate". He said people would be "stunned to learn that even blue-light 999 services are being privatised". "It is proof that the coalition sees no limits on privatisation in the NHS," he added.


Private ambulances cost service millions (Harlow Star: 11 March 2013)

Sending private ambulances to calls in the region cost the NHS more than £10m over a 12 month period, figures published under the Freedom of Information Act reveal. The East of England Ambulance Service Trust, which covers Essex and five other counties, uses private firms to respond to calls during periods of high demand or unexpected staff absences. The figures show that between August 2011 and August 2012 the trust spent more than £10m on private ambulances.


Complaints up on private NHS transport firm (Northhampton Chronicle and Echo: 4 February 2013)

A private company that won an NHS contract to carry Northamptonshire patients to hospital appointments has seen a rise in complaints. East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) expressed dismay last year when it lost all its patient transport contracts to bids from private companies – including its Northamptonshire operation – to NSL Ltd. The Chronicle has now discovered that patients have been less satisfied since NSL started in July. Analysis of the period from July 2011 to December 2011 under EMAS showed there were only two complaints from people in Northamptonshire, while in the same months in 2012, NSL received 29 formal complaints about their service. Colin Todd, an organiser with the GMB union, said: "It is not a surprise when there is a such a change from NHS to private."


Private ambulances cost Yorkshire service £364,000 (Yorkshire Evening Post: 20 September 2012)

Sending private ambulances to answer 999 calls in Yorkshire cost the NHS £364,000 in five months, the Yorkshire Evening Post can reveal. Yorkshire Ambulance Service has been forced to use private firms to respond to emergency calls for the first time because of high demand. Between last December and April this year, private ambulances were sent to more than 1,600 call-outs. That included 585 in the Leeds, Bradford and Airedale area in February alone. Ambulance bosses are currently reviewing their plans for next winter but would not rule out using private providers again.


Paramedics fear lives put at risk by private ambulance crews (The Daily Mirror: 5 August 2012)

Ambulance chiefs have been forced to employ private medics to cover shortfalls in some areas after funding was slashed due to Government budget cuts. The move means an increasing number of private operators are responding to non-999 calls. But NHS workers fear the change could put lives at risk. One ­ambulance worker in London said: "It’s a scandalous situation that will only come to light when someone dies. Private firms are filling in the shortfall in public services because of the cutbacks but there’s a worry that these people are not as highly trained as NHS staff."


East of England Ambulance Service increases private crews (BBC News: 1 November 2011)

An ambulance trust is spending five times as much on private ambulance firms as it did four years ago. The East of England Ambulance Service uses the companies to transport non-emergency patients to hospital. It said it had spent £3.99m on providers in 2010/11, compared with £790,000 in 2007/08, to free up paramedics attending emergencies.

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