Clifton heart attack victim ‘disgusted’ by hospital trust’s £500,000 yearly taxi bill

Colin and Sue Hewitt, from Clifton. NNL-180304-140121009
Colin and Sue Hewitt, from Clifton. NNL-180304-140121009

A heart attack victim sent from Oxford to the Horton in a cab after a heart procedure says he is ‘disgusted’ that the hospital trust spent nearly £500,000 on taxis last year.

Colin Hewitt, of Clifton, said the trust should lease an ambulance and cars to transfer patients home or to other hospitals rather than subject them to cabs while ill, injured or vulnerable.

“It is disgusting how much is spent on taxis,” he said.

“Half a million pounds is probably only a fraction of what is spent on taxis needed to get patients home from hospitals as most people have to pay their own fares.”

A Freedom of Information request submitted by the Banbury Guardian revealed the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust spent £495,000 on taxis between April 2017 and April 2018 in the clinical divisions.

“In addition to patient transport this may have also included taking samples, delivering transplants etc,” the trust said. “The trust is unable to determine how much of the £495k was on patient transport as this is not distinguishable within the data held.”

Mr Hewitt’s criticism comes after a trust investigation into his transfer from the JR in a taxi, unsupervised, after an operation to fit a stent following a heart attack.

“I was told in a complaints meeting that an ambulance had suffered gear box trouble which is why I was eventually put in a taxi after 10pm.

“I was meant to have medical supervision. They had refused to allow my wife to drive me even though she is a qualified first aider,” he said.

“Instead I was put in a taxi with a driver who was in his 20s, certainly didn’t have any medical knowledge and did not know where the Horton was. I directed him and he dropped me off. The meter at that point said £50 and I assume the bill was twice that as he’d have had to drive back to Oxford.

“When I’ve told people the trust has spent £500,000 on taxis they are horrified.

“For far less than that they could lease an ambulance and a car or two. You often see ambulance cars and these would be adequate for the ‘walking wounded’.”

A spokesman for the OUH said: “The trust doesn’t comment on individual cases. In common with many other NHS trusts, we will sometimes use carefully vetted taxi services to take patients home when their family or friends are not able to collect them from hospital and the patient is not able to make arrangements for themselves.

“The trust has a duty to use limited NHS resources as well as possible and it would not be a good use of NHS funds to use emergency ambulances to take patients home when by definition if the patient is returning home, medical support is not required.”

Mr Hewitt said: “It would appear to me they are trying to gloss over the amount being spent on taxis. The trust has a duty to use limited NHS resources well but the £ 495k (or part) could be used in a much more economic way and provide a better service.

“Because there appears to be no one prepared to look at the overall picture it makes it easy for the despatcher of the patient to just pick up the phone and call a taxi – the easy way out.

“The emergency ambulances need not be employed in the majority of cases if hospital vehicles were available and this could easily be funded out of the £495k at present being wasted on taxis.

“Taxi costs are dead money but I guess that there is not an overall co-ordinator that has the power to make sensible decisions.”

“Each department within the hospital should not have the authority to simply pick up the phone to get their patient moved.

“If there is an overall coordinator, they are not doing their job properly in looking at the bigger picture and suggesting how things could change for the better from a patient care and a cost saving point of view.”