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More than £1million a month spent on private ambulances

Ambulance service covering West Berkshire revealed as biggest spender

Chris Ord


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THE ambulance service covering West Berkshire has spent £13.6m paying private and voluntary organisations to attend emergency calls, it has been revealed.

South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS), which covers Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire and Oxfordshire, spent more than any other ambulance trust in the country on private firms in the last financial year.

The figures, released to the BBC under Freedom of Information laws, also showed that NHS spending on private ambulance 999 calls rocketed to £68.7m, more than three times the amount spent in 2011/12.

SCAS director of operations Mark Ainsworth said that, while the current level of spending was not sustainable, private companies were necessary to make up for a shortage of NHS paramedics.

The service is also having to cope with a year-on-year increase, over the last five years, in the volume of emergency incidents paramedics are called to.

“It has been necessary for the trust to employ the services of an approved list of private providers who are CQC registered in order that we can provide the right level of emergency cover to meet the demands of the local communities we serve,” Mr Ainsworth continued.

“Without the private providers, we would currently not have enough resources to get to all the patients who need us.”

Mr Ainsworth said current initiatives aimed to increase the number of qualified paramedics coming through the university system, but, in the meantime, using private ambulance staff has helped SCAS meet its targets.

He added: “SCAS is the best-performing ambulance trust in England in terms of the percentage of patients who suffer a cardiac arrest surviving to being discharged from hospital.

“Patients suffering a major trauma, such as being seriously injured in a road accident, are also now 60 per cent more likely to survive than in 2008/09.

“Where it matters most – saving patients’ lives – we are saving more people than ever before.

“However, we recognise that the existing level of spending on private providers is not sustainable.

“This is why we are undertaking a range of recruitment and training initiatives designed to reduce our spend on private providers.”

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