NHS ambulance services across England are now spending twice as much on private ambulances as they were in 2012, with parts of the country seeing a ten-fold increase.
Labour Freedom of Information requests to all ambulance trusts reveals an increase of 82% between financial years 2011/12 and 2013/14 - from £37 million to £67.5 million last year. The East of England Ambulance Service Trust historically spends a lot on private ambulances, but the amount increased 29% from £10.1m in 2011/12 to £12.9m in 2013/14.
Data released earlier this month by NHS England shows ambulances in the East of England taking an additional 2 minutes 51 seconds to arrive between August 2011 and August 2014.
Andy Burnham MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary said:
"These figures show just how quickly the NHS is changing under David Cameron. Blue-light ambulance services have traditionally been considered part of the public core of the NHS. It is clear that no part of the NHS is now immune to privatisation.
"When people dial 999, most would expect an NHS ambulance crew to turn up. People have never been asked whether they think blue-light ambulance services should be run by private companies. Before this practice goes any further, there should be a proper public debate about it.
"NHS paramedics have raised concerns over whether private crews have sufficient training, competence and are fully equipped. The Government needs to provide urgent answers to these questions and provide assurances that this practice is not compromising patient safety.
“Cameron's Government is driving the private sector into the core of the NHS without the permission of the public. It is wrong and should be stopped. If the Prime Minister wants to continue to subject the NHS to increasing privatisation, he must seek a specific mandate for it at the coming Election."