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27 August 2019, 06:23
An investigation has found major ambulance trusts are increasingly relying on private ambulances to attend 999 calls.
Research by PA news agency shows England's ambulance trusts spent more than £92 million in the last year on private ambulances and taxis to transport patients.
Some trusts told PA they rely on private ambulances due to a chronic shortage of NHS staff and ongoing problems with recruitment.
In some parts of the South, almost one in five emergency calls result in a private ambulance being sent to the scene.
Earlier this year, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) published a damning report warning that patients were being put at risk by private ambulances.
But as part of the research, West Midlands Ambulance Service was found to have been the only trust to have not spent a penny on private ambulances for 2018/19. WMAS did however, spend more than £4million on taxis for patients.
A statement from the trust said: "We are the only ambulance service in the country that has a paramedic on every ambulance vehicle and have no paramedic vacancies.
"We believe that recruiting and training our own staff provides the highest standards of patient care and is more cost effective.
"The trust has also stopped using private providers and charitable organisations in its non-emergency patient transport service. The trust does use some taxis as part of its PTS (patient transport service) operation, usually because it is mandated within such contracts, but we are actively reducing this figure as much as possible."