New figures indicates that the level of NHS spending on private ambulances has trebled in just four years.
The data will be a further indication of the extent to which the NHS is wasting money on acquiring services from the private sector.
Ambulance trusts paid private companies and voluntary organisations £68.7 million to attend emergency calls in 2015-6, compared to £22.1 million in 2011-2.
And although NHS England attempted to defend the practice, even the figures which the healthcare body indicates simply do not add up.
A spokesperson for the organisation pointed out that the demand for ambulances from 999 calls rose by 4.5% last year, but this is hardly a big enough rise to justify the three-fold increase in private ambulance usage.
Meanwhile, health sector unions attacked “creeping privatisation” and called for more money for staff recruitment.
Martin Flaherty, of the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives, indicated that trusts across the United Kingdom were being put under massive financial pressure, and private law volunteer services where being utilised only when absolutely necessary.
Yet some lecturers are spending vast amounts of money on private ambulances, with South Central ambulance service having forked out over £30 million in the last financial year alone.
Over 80% of the NHS ambulance trusts in England are now utilising independent providers for at least some 999 calls, and it seems increasingly likely that this figure will elevate to 100% in the near future.
The Royal College of Paramedics director Richard Webber indicated that there can be recruitment problems, that retaining staff was also challenging for the service, and that this should be considered in future NHS and government strategy on ambulances.
“In the long term, we should not be using private providers in the way we are, but we do need to provide a safe and effective service to the public. We should employ more people, training and supporting them effectively and providing that as part of the NHS.”
Commenting on the issue, a Department of Health spokesman pointed out that the department and government had committed to training and employing more paramedics, and that this figure would elevate still further in the future.
“We have employed 2,000 more paramedics since 2010 and training an extra 1,900 over the next five years.”
Yet Alan Lofthouse, Unison lead officer for ambulance workers, was very critical of the information relating to private ambulances, and was of the clear opinion that it is another example of backdoor privatisation in the NHS.
“It is creeping privatisation, something we are very concerned about. In the short term people need an ambulance. But in the long term they can not be part of a fully-funded system because there is a profit being made by private companies.”