Wigan Infirmary has not ruled out the possibility of using a private taxi service to transfer non-emergency patients to and from appointments.
The hospital trust is “researching” the idea after Uber taxis, a private-hire company, struck a deal with the country’s largest NHS Trust, Barts Health, and social care company Cera to provide transport for vulnerable, non-emergency patients.
The deal will see patients able to use Uber’s mobile app for journeys including hospital appointments and getting “out-and-about” when they might otherwise be housebound or reliant on family and friends.
David Evans, associate director of estates and facilities at Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Trust, said: “WWL is interested to learn of the venture that Barts Health NHS Trust has instigated with the social care company Cera.
“It would not be appropriate to comment further on the detail of any such scheme ourselves without first conducting extensive research into the benefits for the trust and our patients. I would also add that with any contracts such as these, the safety of our patients would be a primary consideration.
“We will be making contact with Barts Health NHS Trust to find out more.”
Chiefs at Cera have said that the firm will use the UberAssist disabled access cars and the UberWav service for wheelchair users.
It will also be available to carers, who can use the mobile app alongside traditional forms of transport to determine the most efficient for moving people.
Dr Ben Maruthappu, Cera’s president, said that the move would “radically integrate care and transport through technology”.
The idea has also been supported by David Mowat MP of the Department of Health.
Despite getting the backing of a number of health and social care chiefs, concerns have still been raised about the feasibility of the new taxi deal with Uber.
The general secretary of Unison, which is the country’s largest public sector union, has warned of potential pitfalls in funding the project.
Dave Prentis said: “Social care and the NHS are in such a state of crisis that any initiative to ease the pressure will be welcomed by patients and staff.
“But the funding chasm between what is needed and the pitiful amount councils currently have to commission care is too deep.
“Nothing short of an emergency injection of cash in the Budget, followed by the sustained and realistic funding of health and care will be enough.”