Costs rise as Yorkshire NHS turns to private ambulances

Shadow Health secretary Andy Burnham
Shadow Health secretary Andy Burnham
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PRIVATE Ambulance cost have spiralled to more than £3.5 million as NHS bosses look to meet rising pressure on emergency services.

Figures released by the Labour Party show Yorkshire Ambulance Trust spent £3.56m on private ambulances in the last financial year.

In 2012 the Trust spent just £782,344 on the same services, prompting Labour concerns that cuts to 999 services are leaving the NHS reliant on private contractors.

Nationally ambulance trusts have seen an increase of 82%, from £37 million to £67.5 million.

Last night shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham said: “These figures show just how quickly the NHS is changing under David Cameron. Blue-light ambulance services have traditionally been considered part of the public core of the NHS.

“When people dial 999, most would expect an NHS ambulance crew to turn up. People have never been asked whether they think blue-light ambulance services should be run by private companies. Before this practice goes any further, there should be a proper public debate about it.”

Labour’s figures show also that over the same period, Yorkshire ambulances have taken 43 seconds longer on average to reach callouts.

Data released earlier this month by NHS England shows, Labour added, that all but one trust have seen their response times lengthen, with the average callout time in Yorkshire in August 2014 up to 356 seconds compared with 313 seconds three years previously.

Mr Burnham added: “NHS paramedics have raised concerns over whether private crews have sufficient training, competence and are fully equipped. The Government needs to provide urgent answers to these questions and provide assurances that this practice is not compromising patient safety.

“Cameron’s Government is driving the private sector into the core of the NHS without the permission of the public. It is wrong and should be stopped. If the Prime Minister wants to continue to subject the NHS to increasing privatisation, he must seek a specific mandate for it at the coming Election.”

The Yorkshire Ambulance Trust did not provide a comment. The service recently revealed it had responded to more than 7 per cent of 999 calls within the eight-minute target.