Revealed: the £45m spent on private taxis by Scotland's NHS
New figures have revealed Scottish health boards spending £45 million on private taxis over the past six years, with opposition politicians demanding the Scottish Government tackles the soaring bill.
Statistics today show that between 2018 and the start of 2024, £45,713,178 was spent by NHS boards on taxis to transport members of staff, and everything from transporting blood and specimens to transporting equipment, case notes and prescriptions.
Scottish Labour now says the SNP government must end the “unnecessary and expensive” use of private taxis.
All mainland health boards have spent over £1.5m each on private taxis since 2018/19.
Dame Jackie Baille, the party’s deputy leader and health spokeswoman, said: “With Scotland’s NHS under severe pressure thanks to savage SNP cuts, eyebrows will rightly be raised over the amount of money being spent on taxi services.
“While taxi journeys will be necessary in some circumstances, and patient safety should always be paramount, we cannot allow the costly use of private transportation to paper over the cracks of SNP under-investment and mismanagement.
“NHS services are under increasing strain and the failure of the SNP to address the workforce challenges, especially in rural areas, means that the cost of transporting patients will keep increasing.”
At NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, the bill included £1.9m on transporting staff and £1.2m on transporting samples.
A further £408,000 was spent on transporting equipment and £225,000 on transporting blood.
Meanwhile at NHS Lothian £1.8m was spent on transporting staff, £893,000 on transporting specimens, and £574,000 on transporting drugs.
Elsewhere NHS Ayrshire and Arran spent £4.7m, NHS Grampian spent £4.3m, NHS Lanarkshire spent £3.9m, NHS Tayside spent £2.1m, NHS Borders and Dumfries and Galloway each spent £1.8m, and NHS Fife spent £1.7m.
Scotland’s three island health boards also racked up huge bills for using private taxis - £547,783 at NHS Western Isles, £280,777 at NHS Orkney, and £109,973 at NHS Shetland.
For all bar four health boards (the three island health boards and NHS Tayside), the biggest spend was in 2022/23.
NHS Forth Valley did not provide their spending figures.
Scottish Labour says the government’s new health secretary Neil Gray must take action to crack down on the use of private transport.
Mr Gray only became health secretary last week when Michael Matheson resigned over an £11,000 iPad bill.
Dame Jackie added: “While the SNP continually fail our NHS, Scottish Labour will always put the NHS and those it serves first.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Government says this is a matter for individual NHS health boards, but added: “The 2024/25 Scottish Government budget provides funding of over £19.5 billion for NHS recovery, health and social care - giving our NHS a real-terms uplift in the face of UK Government austerity.”
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde says it has a business travel policy that is continually reviewed to make sure it is cost-efficient.
A spokesman added: “In some cases, the usage of taxis is the most efficient, fastest and accessible way of transport to ensure patients, staff and materials are transported safely.”
Craig Marriott, director of finance at NHS Lothian, said: “In 2022 a project was initiated to review NHS Lothian’s taxi activity with the objective of reducing spend in this area.
“This included a review of the NHS Lothian taxi policy and the implementation of a monthly reporting system to support managers to review taxi journeys in their area.
“The revised policy has since led to a reduction of 10,946 taxi journeys so far.
“In some instances, taxis remain the quickest and safest transport option.”
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