East of England Ambulance Service spent more than £1m on taxis last year, figures reveal
The East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST) paid more than £1m to taxi firms last year, figures reveal.
Data from a Freedom of Information request shows that in 2011/12 the ambulance trust spent £108,484 on taxis.
This figure dropped to £77,262 the following year but then shot up to £903,788 in 2013/14. Last year the figure reached £1,047,008 – up on £820,563 the year before.
The trust says the vast majority of the money paid to taxi companies is to ferry non-emergency patients to and from hospital for routine appointments as part of its Patient Transport Service (PTS)
It said taxis are rarely used with 999 emergency calls and only in the case where the patient has suffered minor injuries.
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The trust's PTS team make around 500,620 journeys every year – transporting patients too frail or in need specialist assistance to and from appointments at hospitals and treatment centres in the region.
John O'Connell, chief executive of the Taxpayers' Alliance, said the amount of money the ambulance service trust pays to taxi firms is something to keep a close eye on in the future.
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He said: 'This sharp rise is something worth paying attention to.
'We must always make sure the best value for money is being got.
'However, we must balance that with the fact that it may actually save money by not using big expensive ambulances.'
A spokesman for the ambulance trust said this year it has significantly reduced the amount paid to taxi firms and that there had been no spending on taxis in relation to 999 calls since April this year.
He said: 'The Trust holds a number of non-emergency Patient Transport Service (PTS) contracts and in 2015/16 more than £1m was spent on taxis to take patients to and from routine appointments.
'Since then the Trust has increased staffing and significantly reduced taxi spending in PTS.
'There is very small spend on taxis related to the health and wellbeing of our staff on occasion.
'In the emergency 999 service operations, taxis have very occasionally been used to transport a patient with a minor condition, if it was deemed clinically appropriate. Since April, there's been no taxi spending in the emergency 999 service operations.'