Our ref: KW0372.

cw Your ref: Private & Confidential 5 December 2013 Rt Hon Andy Burnham MP House of Commons London SW1A 0AA

Trust Headquarters Abbey Court Eagle Way Exeter Devon EX2 7HY Tel: 01392 261500 Fax: 01392 261510 Website: www.swast.nhs.uk

Dear Mr Burnham The use of taxis by South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust I am writing in response to the statements made by you in the House of Commons on Tuesday 26 November concerning the use of taxis by South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust. It is both disappointing and concerning that the information provided to your office in response to a Freedom of Information request (FOI 990) has been misinterpreted and misreported in order to present a grossly inaccurate picture for the purposes of apparent political gain. This misrepresentation was further compounded by the considerable press coverage that your comments received, resulting in unnecessary and unfounded damage to the reputation of South Western Ambulance Service. Whilst the information contained in the FOI response was clear and comprehensive, perhaps I should clarify the use of taxis by South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust. Taxis are only used to transport patients in a very small minority of cases where it is clinically safe and appropriate to do so. Taxis would never be used to transport patients in emergency or life threatening situations. The sixty six patients that have been transported in a taxi this year have had minor injuries and ailments such as a cut finger or a sprained wrist, but have not been able to make any other transport arrangements themselves. Taxis are only used in extreme circumstances when demand on ambulance resources is exceptional and any patient offered a taxi will have been clinically assessed as safe to travel. (To put this figure in context, the Trust received 563,849 emergency and urgent ambulance calls in the last financial year.) In your statement to the Commons, you said, “South Western Ambulance Service has seen a 350% rise in the number of taxis attending 999 calls.” As the Shadow Secretary of State for Health, I am sure you are aware that not all 999 calls received by the ambulance service result in an emergency response. In fact, many result in a nonurgent response that is managed through our clinical hub on a priority basis. By not qualifying the appropriateness of the response to a call received via 999, or indeed referring to the small numbers involved, you are misleading both your ministerial colleagues and, in turn, the public through the media coverage that followed.

Like all ambulance trusts across the country, South Western Ambulance Service has seen a significant increase in demand for its services on an annual basis. The loss of the non-emergency Patient Transport Services to private providers has also led to a number of patients requiring taxis to clinic appointments as the new services are established. South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust prides itself on delivering high quality care to patients, even when faced with losing a valuable part of its service. We would simply not leave patients stranded because the private provider is not prepared, and this has led to an increase in the use of taxis, all at a cost to the Trust. None of this detail is reflected in your comments, which is disappointing as, despite this detail being provided to your office prior to your statement, it was omitted from your speech. To have quoted the expenditure on taxis by South Western Ambulance Service without explaining that this figure related to all taxi journeys (the majority of which would not be in response to 999 calls, but routine patient journeys) is quite simply inaccurate. I am astonished that anyone would present such misleading information to the House of Commons. I would ask that you give careful consideration to the concerns that I raise in this letter. I look forward to hearing from you. Yours sincerely

Ken Wenman Chief Executive

Copied to: Rt Hon Mr Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health Ben Bradshaw MP (Exeter) Annette Brooke MP (Mid Dorset & North Poole) Richard Drax MP (South Dorset) Tobias Ellwood MP (Bournemouth East) Andrew George MP (St Ives) Duncan Hames MP (Chippenham) Nick Harvey MP (North Devon) Martin Horwood MP (Cheltenham) Kerry McCarthy MP (Bristol East) Dawn Primarolo MP (Bristol South) Adrian Sanders MP (Torbay) Dr Sarah Wollaston MP (Totnes)

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