Ipswich: Hospital spends �197,000 on taxis for patients in one year

Nearly �200,000 was spent by Ipswich Hospital in only a year on paying for taxis to transport patients, The Evening Star can reveal today.

The revelation comes weeks after bosses were forced to apologise to one woman who was sent on a 93-mile cab journey to London for treatment.

News of the hospital trust’s expenditure, which totalled �197,000, has drawn criticism from one NHS pressure group which says ferrying patients around in taxis was far from ideal.

John Lister, information director at Health Emergency, described the policy of using cabs to transport patients as “questionable”.

“Using taxis doesn’t seem a particularly good idea considering there is no trained member of staff in the vehicle if the patient needs medical help,” he said.

“Sending people who have no other means of transport home in a taxi is questionable.

“What happens when they get home? The taxi driver will just leave them at their door.

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“That makes me wonder how seriously the hospital is about seamless care.

“Patients will end up bouncing back to accident and emergency.”

In total, the hospital spent �1,672,000 on patient transport in 2009/10 – this figure, released following an Evening Star Freedom of Information request, includes paying for ambulances, volunteer ambulance cars and cabs.

A spokeswoman for the hospital defended the expenditure saying there must be “exceptional circumstances” for a patient to be transported in a taxi.

She said the majority of the �197,000 was spent on getting renal patients from North Essex and Suffolk to the hospital for dialysis treatment.

“If someone is well enough to leave the hospital but does not have any means of transport themselves or family to help them we may order them a taxi,” she said.

“Or, if there has been a serious accident – such as a road traffic collision – and we need a lot of beds quickly, we might ask patients who are due to go home the next day if they would be willing to go home then instead so that we can deal with the emergency.”

The �197,000 spent on taxis is a significant decrease on the hospital’s expenditure in the 2004/05 financial year. An investigation discovered �249,700 had been spent resulting in the facility being in one of the 20 highest spending hospitals in the country.

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