The Care Quality Commission has published a report warning that patients are being put at risk by the increasing reliance on private ambulances and taxis by major ambulance trusts to respond to emergency calls, with the Press Association claiming England’s ambulance trusts spent more than £92 million in the last year on these modes of transport.
Some trusts said they rely on private ambulances due to a chronic shortage of NHS staff and ongoing problems with recruitment, whilst the CQC said there were “ongoing issues with poor recruitment, training and safeguarding processes, with evidence of incidents of serious harm to people from staff that had not been properly recruited and vetted. Many providers had no, or very limited, training for their staff.”
“NHS increasingly using private ambulances and taxis“
The East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust said: “It takes three years to qualify as a paramedic and we use private services to fill gaps in budgeted capacity whilst student paramedics complete their university studies and whilst we fill vacancies. Recruiting trained staff, particularly registered paramedics, is extremely challenging and whilst we continue to recruit and train a significant number of patient-facing staff, we continue to use private ambulance services so that we can respond to patients as quickly as possible and give them the best possible service.”
Unison national ambulance officer Colm Porter said: “Spiralling costs for private ambulance hire are siphoning tens of millions from squeezed NHS budgets that would be better spent elsewhere. Research suggests private firms are cutting corners and failing to provide the level of care needed for patients. The NHS sorely needs investment to address staff shortages and stem the flow of departures from the ambulance service, rather than papering over the cracks.”