DRIVERS who help patients get to hospital appointments will be left out of pocket because of a change in rules over their expenses, according to one volunteer.
Alan Harvey claims voluntary staff from East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) are having to turn down work because the mileage rate which they receive after covering more than 10,000 miles per year has been lowered
He claims it no longer covers the cost of some trips and fears it will result in the service forking out for taxis rather than paying what he believes is a fairer rate to volunteers.
Mr Harvey, of Church Street, Pinchbeck, said: “After April 6, the rate was increased from 40 to 45 pence. The ambulance service said their solicitors had been talking to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and an insurance company and if they carry on paying 45 pence after 10,000 miles, the insurance company says we are doing it for profit and we will not be covered.”
As a result, drivers are now paid 25 pence per mile after 10,000 miles.
Mr Harvey says a number of drivers have since checked with their insurance companies, and they say there is no problem.
However, because of the new rules, he says volunteers are now having to be selective about what journeys they agree to do.
He said: “I was asked to go to Leicester one afternoon this week. That’s about 50 miles so I would get £12.50. I turned it down. Others are doing the same, some have stopped working until the next tax year.”
He added: “I am over 65. I did not want to retire and do nothing. I wanted something to do during the week and this was ideal.
“It covered the cost of doing the car journey but they expect me to now pay out of my pension to cover the cost of the NHS.”
A spokesman for EMAS said: “We took professional advice and introduced the highest rates permissible by the HMRC. After discussions with volunteers, we also agreed to pay an additional five pence per mile for each patient transported. This payment is also in line with HMRC regulations.
“Our approach ensures that no payment is made which could potentially affect motor insurance cover. It therefore safeguards our volunteers, patients and EMAS.
“EMAS is grateful that the majority of volunteers continue to provide an ongoing commitment to their role for the benefit of the patients we serve.”