Taxis used by Northampton General Hospital to take home patients stranded by private ambulance firm

Private ambulances are missing appointments to pick up healthy patients - who are then been sent back to their beds.
Private ambulances are missing appointments to pick up healthy patients - who are then been sent back to their beds.

Northampton General Hospital is paying for private taxis to take some patients home after the transport firm it uses let it down on dozens of occasions.

Thames Ambulance Service (TASL) took over the contract to take discharged NGH patients home in March after predecessor NSL left people stranded on a regular basis.

Now it seems that TASL is falling into the same pattern with healthy patients sent back to their in-demand beds at least 12 times in October and a minimum of 14 times in September. And the figures could well be even higher as the figures only count online bookings and not telephone bookings made by wards, out-of-hours journeys, or outpatient bookings.

The hospital is being forced to take a number of expensive actions to get patients away in a timely manner and free up much-needed bed spaces. It includes employing a private ambulance crew to cover the dropped appointments. Managers have also approved payment for private wheelchair taxi services.

The latest hospital board papers admit that “TASL has not provided the level of service expected” adding that “[NHS] and TASL meetings are being held to address the underperformance”

Even patients who do get taken sometimes have to endure long waits. Statistics from October alone - which, again, may actually be higher than quoted - show 36 people waited between three and four hours, 15 waited four to five hours, three waited five to six hours and one waited in excess of six hours.

TASL has been contacted for comment.