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Private ambulance costs more than treble at Norfolk and Suffolk mental health trust

06:30 19 July 2014

Hellesdon Hospital, the headquarters of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust.

Hellesdon Hospital, the headquarters of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust.

Archant © 2012

Officials from a mental health trust have pledged to reduce transport costs after private ambulance expenses more than trebled in the space of two years.

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT), which has come under criticism for sending some patients more than 200 miles away for an inpatient bed, paid more than £150,000 to private ambulance firms over the last three years, according to the results of a Freedom of Information request.

New figures show that the mental health trust spent more than £20,000 during the 2011/12 financial year on private ambulance costs, which rose to more than £70,000 during 2013/14.

More than 100 NSFT patients were sent as far afield as Darlington, Brighton, Bristol, and Harrogate in 2013/14 because there were no inpatient beds available locally.

However, officials from the trust said the rise in private ambulance costs were also because of increased demand for services and higher transport costs.

Emma Corlett, NSFT Unison branch spokesperson, said: “The rise in the spend on private ambulances is yet more evidence of the false economy of cuts to our services. This public money would be better spent on employing more NHS staff. If our community teams were properly resourced and we had enough beds locally there would be no need to use private ambulances at all. There is also a hidden cost of using a private ambulance - the length of time the vulnerable, often distressed, patient and staff have to wait.”

“It is not acceptable to send someone so far away from their family and friends when they need them most, the cost of that is immeasurable.”

A spokesman for NSFT said the organisation had a contract in place with the East of England Ambulance Service for non-emergency patient transport. However, doctors had to call a private provider when the ambulance trust could not assist.

“The rise in private ambulance costs reflects a number of factors; increased transport costs generally (fuel and insurance costs have risen significantly over the past three years and those costs get passed on to the trust), increased demand on our services generally, and also, higher numbers of patients placed out of area.”

“A key priority for the trust is to reduce the number of out-of-area placements and as of today that number stands at 13. Obviously reducing those placements will help reduce the patient transport costs,” he said.

7 comments

  • There are many different sides to EEASTs operations. They are paid a substantial amount of money to provide services in addition to the statutory emergency operations, these are referred to as NEPTS, and these mental health transports are included in this contract. This is is a separate operation with different staff to the front line emergency work and would (or should) never take resources from 999 jobs.

    Report this comment

    Panda

    Monday, July 21, 2014

  • £50,000 per annum payrise? More than the PM, the most paid yet unheard of civil servant ever.

    Report this comment

    wes1975

    Sunday, July 20, 2014

  • EEAST are busy dealing with MEDICAL emergencies and must be their number 1 priority before providing taxi services for mental health patients. Someone needing urgent medical treatment has to be priority and we cannot blame EEAST for this. I have always said there should be a separate health service for mental health unless the person in question needs medical care. Does a patient go into Hellesdon to have a heart bypass? I dont think so!

    Report this comment

    getalife

    Sunday, July 20, 2014

  • The cost of private ambulances relates to transport of patients where EEAST fail to transport patients they are contracted too. the payments to the new provider will be part of the contract and not the Ad-Hoc jobs which this relates too. If the new provider does it's job properly and not fail to transport like EEAST have, payments other providers will cease completely.

    Report this comment

    Panda

    Saturday, July 19, 2014

  • Ah privatisation of public services........don't you just love it!

    Report this comment

    One Horse Town

    Saturday, July 19, 2014

  • Would've thought the EDP would cover the upcoming changes to the EEAST.

    Report this comment

    Bobby Stranger

    Saturday, July 19, 2014

  • Should be interesting how they are going to reduce the cost of private ambulance now that they will not have the services of the East of England Ambulance Service, Patient Transport Service as from 1st October EEAST PTS will become a private ambulance service !!

    Report this comment

    Wife

    Saturday, July 19, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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