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Private ambulance service charging £99 opens to tackle patient delays amid concerns over a ‘two-tier’ system

A new private ambulance service will offer faster travel to A&E for those caught out by half-day waits for NHS ambulances, The Independent can reveal, in a sign of a growing “two-tier” health service.

MET Medical ambulance service will begin by charging £99 for a call-out, and could serve thousands of people a week, its chief executive Dave Hawkins has said.

Mr Hawkins, who is a paramedic himself, said he launched the service after seeing his elderly relatives wait too long for NHS ambulance services following falls.

It comes as waiting times for ambulance service reached a crisis point in the last year, with frail and vulnerable people waiting hours for an ambulance.

Ambulance response times hit record highs over 2022-23, with people who should have an ambulance within 20 minutes waiting an hour and 30 minutes in December 2023.

According to estimates from the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives, 34,000 patients were likely to have suffered harm due to these delays – this hit a high of more than 60,000 in December 2022.

MET Medical will still have to wait to deliver patients if they are seen as a priority, but it said its patients are likely to be lower priority and can be dropped at A&E without waiting for a handover.

Mr Hawkins said vulnerable patients waiting for an ambulance can wait up to 12 hours.

“It’s that moment when you’re out of options, it’s really a horrible place to be, particularly if it’s a loved one … It is a shame, like we’ve seen from the stats and everything, that the health service is failing us."

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Source: The Independent, 3 April 2024


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