Spending on private ambulances doubles in the East

27 August 2019, 06:00

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The East of England Ambulance Service has doubled what it spends on private ambulances.

An investigation has found the NHS Trust shelled out £9.53 million on them in 2018/19, compared to £4.79 million during the previous twelve months.

More than twice as many 999 calls in the region resulted in a private ambulance being sent to the scene.

Some 26,428 incidents in 2018/19 involved a private ambulance being required, up from 12,947 the year before.

Earlier this year, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) published a damning report warning that patients were being put at risk by private ambulances.

It found that some firms were failing to obtain references or carry out criminal records checks while a lack of staff training was leading to serious patient harm.

The East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust said it had hired hundreds of new staff but used private ambulances for overtime and spikes in demand, such as in winter.

It added: "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."