NHS wasting £1 million a week on private ambulances for emergency calls

The NHS has been accused of “shocking waste” after a trade union investigation discovered it was spending more than £1 million a week on private ambulances for emergency calls.

Unison, whose members have recently approved a new government pay deal, claims to have received responses from two-thirds of ambulance trusts in England that have paid private businesses to provide emergency cover for important patients.

It said trusts in England have employed more than a dozen private companies to try to bridge gaps and meet response times under what it called tremendous demand.

Unison said that crews and vehicles are booked up to a year in advance to ensure that they are accessible to respond to critical occurrences such as strokes and traffic accidents.

It went on to say that spending the money on private 999 care was a “short-term fix, not a long-term solution to the ambulance service crisis.”

“It’s nothing more than a sticking plaster solution. Ambulance services are in a desperate state because the government has failed to invest long term.

“Patients are waiting for help for hours or dying before crews can reach them. Others are stuck in ambulances outside hospitals for hours on end, waiting for a bed.”

Despite Unison members accepting a pay deal, negotiations continue with the Royal College of Nursing, which announced on Friday that its members will strike for 48 hours from 8pm on 30 April after rejecting the offer.

NHS nurses in emergency departments, intensive care and cancer wards will also take industrial action for the first time.

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