Hospital pays out Â£30k in taxi fees for patients
Health chiefs in Wigan spent Â£30,000 on taxis for patients during one year alone, new figures suggest.
The startling figure was revealed in data released by the Health and Social Care Information Centre.
It relates to the 2014/15 financial year and shows the costs for transferring patients by private taxi when they are too ill, frail or unable to travel to and from appointments by themselves.
However, the £30,000 is relatively small compared to the cost incurred by some hospital trusts.
Neighbouring St Helens and Knowsley NHS Trust spent over £70,000 during the same period, while some larger trusts shelled out more £200,000 per year.
A taxi may be paid for by the NHS if there is a shortage of patient transport services at the hospital, including ambulances or car drivers.
Among the high spenders are the North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, which spent £722,000 on taxis as part of its service to NHS hospitals.
South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust spent £617,008, while Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust spent £261,338 and University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust spent £241,772.
University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust spent £346,857 and Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust spent £211,892.
Katherine Murphy, from the Patients Association, said: “There is an exorbitant amount of waste and inefficiency in the NHS and we’ve got to stop it.
“Surely, by putting some time aside for planning patients’ needs, we could use hospital transport far more effectively and not continue to waste money on private taxis?”
Unison union general secretary Dave Prentis said: “While taking ill and elderly people to and from hospital in a cab is clearly preferable to making them take the bus or train, taxis are no substitute for an ambulance or a hospital car containing someone who is medically trained.”
Rehana Azam, GMB acting national secretary for public services, said: “The Government keep saying NHS funding is protected, yet sick people are being put in taxis because there are not enough NHS vehicles to safely transport them.”
A spokesman for NHS England said: “For several decades it has been common to contract with non-emergency patient transport providers so as not to tie up ambulances .”