New figures obtained by Labour have revealed that the ambulance trust that covers the Bath area has used over 150 taxis to respond to 999 calls when ambulances haven’t been available.
Figures obtained in the Freedom of Information request by Labour reveal that in 2012-13 158 taxis attended 999 calls in the South Western Ambulance Service area. In 2009-10 the number was just 35.
The SWAST (South Western Ambulance Service Trust) took over the running of ambulances in the Bath area back in February after acquiring its neighbouring Great Western Ambulance Service NHS Trust (GWAS).
Police, firefighters and taxis are increasing being used to attend 999 calls, as the pressure on ambulance services increases, Labour’s shadow health secretary has claimed.
Andy Burnham said yesterday how ambulances are becoming ‘trapped’ at Emergency Departments with a lack of space meaning handover from paramedics to hospital staff takes far longer than it should.
The handover to the hospitals is taking so long that “large swathes” of the country are being left for periods of time without adequate ambulance cover.
He told MPs yesterday that “in some cases” police cars were being used to ferry patients to A&E on a daily basis, with the SWAST seeing a 350% increase of 999 calls being attended by taxis.
He asked Jeremy Hunt: “Does the secretary of state think it is ever acceptable that when a patient dials 999 a taxi turns up instead?”
Jeremy Hunt responded by saying that Mr Burnham was “trying to talk up a crisis that isn’t happening”, and further insisted that the government is meeting its targets on A&E waiting times and ambulance standards.
But Mr Burnham then accused the secretary of state of “complacency”, and told him to be honest about the scale of the crisis.
Mr Hunt added that 2,000 more people a day are being seen within the 4 hour A&E waiting target, than under the previous Labour government, with more A&E doctors being on call.
In a statement sent out by South Western Ambulance Service, they said:
“Taxis are only used to transport patients in a very small minority of cases where it is clinically safe and appropriate to do so. This would not occur in emergency or life threatening situations. The sixty six patients that have been transported in a taxi this year have had minor injuries and ailments such as a cut finger or a sprained wrist, but have not been able to make any other transport arrangements themselves. Taxis are only used in extreme circumstances when demand on ambulance resources is exceptional and any patient offered a taxi will have been clinically assessed as safe to travel.
“Like all ambulance trusts across the country, South Western Ambulance Service has also seen a significant increase in demand for its services on an annual basis. The loss of the non-emergency Patient Transport Services to private providers has also led to a number of patients requiring taxis to clinic appointments as the new services are established.
“South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust is disappointed that the information given by Andy Burnham, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, in his speech to the Commons yesterday was misleading. By misreporting the facts and the costs, the services provided by the ambulance trust have been misrepresented.”