Health service forks out for staff cabs

CASH-strapped health bosses have resorted to using cabs to ferry workers between hospitals in east Suffolk due to staff shortages.They have denied that taxis are being used regularly, but did admit that a cab had been used on one occasion in recent weeks - claiming that it was cheaper than employing agency staff to cover the shift.

CASH-strapped health bosses have resorted to using cabs to ferry workers between hospitals in east Suffolk due to staff shortages.

They have denied that taxis are being used regularly, but did admit that a cab had been used on one occasion in recent weeks -because it was cheaper than employing agency staff to cover the shift.

Hospital campaigners were outraged after staff told them that taxis were being regularly used to take workers from the Bartlet Hospital at Felixstowe to Aldeburgh Hospital to provide cover and then bring them home again at the end of the shift.

It was understood the fares were around £40 each way.

But a spokesman for Suffolk East Primary Care Trust said only in “extremely exceptional circumstances” would a taxi be used to transport a member of staff to another site.

He said: “Staff use their own cars, or share cars, or borrow the PCT pool car.

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“If for some reason all of these options were not possible and cover at another site was essential to maintain patient safety and keep beds open, then a taxi might be considered as a last resort.

“This course of action would be cheaper than using agency staff.

“We believe that a taxi may have been used on one occasion in recent weeks.”

PCT officials say they are very proud of their staff and the way they have adapted to recent problems caused by the financial crisis, being willing to be flexible to help ensure all services are kept running.

But Roy Gray, chairman of the Save Felixstowe Hospitals action group, expressed concern at the staff situation and said numbers at the Bartlet had dropped from 120 to 51 since the start of the consultation period over its proposed closure and believed the hospital was being closed by stealth.

Mr Gray said: “The majority of the staff have left since they have no job security.

“In my opinion, it is a clever ploy to avoid redundancies and also back up the case for closing the Bartlet - a lack of trained staff to run it. The situation in Aldeburgh is similar and is aggravated by illness, with staff being sent from Felixstowe to Aldeburgh to cover.”

What do you think of the crisis effecting our health service? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

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