The ambulance service that provides emergency services to Oxfordshire is having to spend record amounts to hire private providers to maintain service levels.
The BG has reported on a number of incidents where ambulances were late or unable to get to incidents - and last week victims of a hit and run had to get to hospital via a police car after receiving injuries in the accident.
South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) covers an area stretching from Oxfordshire all the way to Portsmouth and is responsible for four million people.
It is also top of the list of the ten UK ambulance trusts for expenditure, spending £16.3 million on private ambulance services.
Mark Ainsworth, director of operations, said: “The rise in spending on private providers is directly related to the year-on-year increase for our emergency 999 service, which corresponds with a time where all ambulance services are facing a national shortage of paramedics.”
“In 2016/17, our emergency 999 demand for patients suffering a life-threatening emergency (red calls) increased by 20 per cent from the prior year, and without the private providers we would currently not have enough resources to get to all the patients who need us.
“By filling gaps in our service provision with private providers, SCAS was the best performing ambulance trust against the national performance targets in 2016/17.”
However, mistakes are being made despite record levels of money being spent on private ambulance services.
Last week the BG reported on a hit and run in Banbury that left two people requiring hospital treatment and police appealing for information about the driver of the silver Mercedes that drove away from the scene.
Shazia Mehta was the passenger in the blue Citroen Piasco, with her father driving when it was struck on Edmunds Road. The pair’s evening, however, continued to get worse.
Shazia said: “We were asked by the police to sit on the footpath and wait for an ambulance.
“I had serve pain in my left clavicle, I had shortness of breath and episode of dizziness and my father had very severe pain in his right leg, shoulder and back. His leg was swollen.
“No first responder came on the RTA scene. In the end the police man had to take us in his car to A&E in Horton hospital, dropped us outside and did not even care to go and speak to the receptionist, instead asked us to go and speak to someone at the desk.
“My mother had to find a wheelchair for my father as he couldn’t walk at all.”
SCAS said in a statement: “Members of our emergency control room team were unable to speak to police officers at the scene nor to the patients involved in order to perform a thorough triage. Therefore the incident was categorised as requiring an ambulance response within 30 minutes based on the limited information initially provided.
“At 19.03 we were informed by Thames Valley Police that their officers at the scene would take the patients to the Horton General Hospital.
“A senior manager in our emergency control room has reviewed our response to the call and identified that despite the difficulties we experienced in triaging the call, there was an opportunity at 18.38 to send an ambulance that had become available to the incident.
SCAS added: “SCAS would like to apologise to the patient for this error that resulted in the delay they experienced. We would encourage the patient to get in touch with the Trust directly so that we can fully investigate any of their remaining concerns regarding our response.”
Although SCAS admitted human error in this specific case supporters of the NHS and all of its vital service see that these types of problems have much deeper roots.
Keith Strangwood, Keep the Horton General Campaign Group chairman, said: “I don’t blame SCAS. I blame the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group for bad planning and the Government for under-funding and having no vision for the NHS except the privatising, centralising Sustainability and Transformation plans.
He added: “This proves SCAS’s involvement in the formulation of the first phase of the Oxfordshire Transformation Plan, involving closure of 45 Horton medical beds and removal of consultant led maternity, was very minor.”