Figures obtained through the Freedom of Information Act provide more evidence, if any were needed, that things are not right with the NHS.
When we are constantly hearing how cash-strapped the service is, it emerges that South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) has forked out more than £16m on private ambulances in the past year.
Obviously this is something SCAS would rather not do, but a combination of factors has led to our regional trust spending this frankly staggering sum.
It’s the highest of all 10 ambulance trusts in the country. The Independent Ambulance Association identified two main reasons which have combined to create this situation – staff shortages and a continued increase in demand.
There is also the long-standing problem – which has routinely afflicted QA Hospital, – of ambulances being forced to wait hours at a time to unload their patients when they arrive at hospitals. Consequently they are prevented from a quick return to action.
The trust faces similar problems to those which are strangling our hospitals – lacking in the vital resources close at hand, they are forced to go farther afield and spend more to get a comparable service.
It’s a downward spiral that is ultimately a zero sum game for the trusts – if they lose, the private providers win.
More investment in the NHS is urgently needed across the board. And the ambulance trusts are, sadly, just one more voice crying out for that extra funding.
Unfortunately, that is highly unlikely with the current government or, if we’re honest, with a government of any stripe. But it’s clear more staff need training and more resources need allocating or the trust and, as a result, the taxpayer, will keep losing out.