Thousands of private taxis have been drafted in to drive 999 patients to hospitals in Yorkshire on behalf of the county’s under-fire ambulance service.
More than 2,100 private hire taxis responded to 999 emergency calls and took patients to Yorkshire A&E departments in 2014 as opposed to just 20 the year prior.
Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust (YAS) has stated that all patients taken to A&E by taxi have less urgent needs and have been dealt with by over-the-phone triage teams.
Exclusive figures show that YAS’s reliance on private taxi firms for both 999 emergencies and the Patient Transport Service, where the trust transports known patients to routine appointments, cost the organisation £1.136m from April 2013 to March 2014 – up around £300,000 from 2009/10.
Leeds North West MP Greg Mulholland has raised concerns over YAS with Health Minister Jeremy Hunt. He said: “The figures uncovered by the Yorkshire Post paint a worrying picture.”
YAS, which resolved a two-year dispute with union Unite this week, has come under fire for failing to hit national targets of responding to 75 per cent of serious ‘red’ 999 calls in eight minutes. The target was hit in 60.61 per cent of December cases.
Maureen Idle, of Leeds Hospital Alert, claims the situation is “appalling”. She said: “What are they meant to do if somebody goes into cardiac arrest?”
YAS locality director Ben Holdaway said the triage system helps determine the most appropriate response. He added: “Our absolute focus is to ensure that we provide a safe, responsive and high quality 999 service.”