Hampshire’s ambulance service sends private companies to some 999 calls

RESPONSE An ambulance responding to an emergency call
RESPONSE An ambulance responding to an emergency call

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MILLIONS of pounds have been spent by an ambulance service to send out private companies to emergency calls.

South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) delegated thousands of 999 calls in the south of England to private firms – costing the NHS £10m in 2010-11.

Christopher Ringwood from Patient Voice said he was “horrified” by the figures.

He said: ‘It’s like dialling 999 and asking for the fire brigade – you wouldn’t send a private fire engine would you?

‘It can’t be an efficient use of public money.’

But an SCAS spokesman said economic conditions were to blame.

Ian Ferguson, the trust’s chief operations officer, said: ‘The cost of living is higher in the south so it’s easier in some ways to recruit in the north of England.

‘Our staff are highly skilled so it takes a long time to train them.

‘We recruited 150 extra staff last year, we plan to recruit 150 extra staff next year, and that will enable us to reduce our dependence on private providers.’

Of the 390,100 emergency calls, 47,398 were attended by private providers – around one on eight – in Hampshire, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire.