Taxis to replace ambulance cars

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KIDNEY patients are set to be transported to dialysis appointments by taxi drivers rather than ambulance staff following a health shake-up.

Unions have hit out at the privatisation of the Yorkshire Ambulance Patient Transport Services after the trust lost the renal contract throughout the whole of South Yorkshire.

The changes set to come in next month will see patients transported in taxis rather than ‘medicars’ which unions say carry specialist equipment.

Unison branch secretary, Bryn Webster, said: “This is an appalling move which will have a negative impact on patient care.

“What it means to the patients is that instead of getting a purpose-built vehicle, with fully trained staff, they will now be getting a taxi.

“We will take some convincing that an ambulance service can be adequately provided by a taxi company.”

Mr Webster said Unison had serious concerns about what would happen if a patient was taken ill in transit.

He added: “If they were in an ambulance then the staff would have both the equipment and the training to deal with any situation. We are not convinced that this would be the same if they were in the back of the taxi.”

“There is a place in society for a taxi service, but not in transporting, and possibly treating, patients.”

The contract decision was led by NHS Rotherham, but also affects kidney patients living and having treatment in Doncaster.

The job implications for the ambulance trust workers have not yet been made clear, although some meetings with unions have taken place with more to follow.

Nigel Parkes, senior contracts manager at NHS Rotherham, said the new service would be more focused, delivered by regular drivers, and targeted to meet individuals’ needs.

Mr Parkes said renal patients did not generally need medical help during journeys but those who needed more support would still be transported by ambulance staff.

He added: “The new service specification has been designed to a higher standard than the previous contract with Yorkshire Ambulance Service.

“In particular it demands improved punctuality, better patient experience and more flexibility.”