A private emergency ambulance based at a Spalding hotel has fuelled a row over the failing East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) spending £6.2million on contractors.
EMAS is missing Government-set emergency call targets – with South Holland the worst served area in Lincolnshire – while splashing enough cash for companies to pay private ambulance crews to sleep and eat at places like Spalding’s £65 a night, three star Woodlands Hotel.
A Spalding Guardian reader said the two-man crew of the Amvale Medical ambulance were “living the life of Riley” a short distance away from the NHS ambulance station.
Coun Phil Dilks, who sits on Lincolnshire County Council’s Health Scrutiny Committee, said: “We have a right to know what these private ambulance crews get up to, what training they receive, how much they’re costing us and whether taxpayers are getting value for money – it doesn’t seem so if we’re paying private firms so much that they can afford to put crews up in local hotels.
“At the same time as emergency response times for ambulances in our area have risen at an alarming rate, spending on privately owned ambulances in the East Midlands has also risen massively – up 78 per cent – from £3.5million in 2011 to £6.2million, according to the NHS’s own figures.”
Coun Dilks said EMAS blue light ambulances take an average of almost two minutes above the eight-minute target to arrive and they are almost four minutes slower than they were three years ago.
He said: “It’s a scandalous breakdown of a vital public service over a relatively short period and patients’ lives are clearly at increased risk.”
An EMAS spokesman said private ambulance staff have the same skills and qualifications as its own crews – and the trust is “open and honest” about its use of outside services, but aims long-term to “reduce reliance on this type of support”.
He said: “Voluntary and private ambulance services provide us with additional resources when we experience a significant increase in the number of 999 calls received. This allows us to continue to provide the best possible service to the public. EMAS does not source or pay for accommodation for Amvale Medical employees.”