RISING demand has led to spending on private ambulances in Yorkshire soaring by 267 per cent in less than three years.
Yorkshire Ambulance Service paid private firms £2.8m in nine months out of the 12 in 2013 – up from £782,000 from April 2011/12.
The number of incidents non-NHS ambulances were sent to annually rocketed by more than 1,000 per cent between 2010 and 2014.
Nearly 20,000 calls in total were responded to by private firms over that time.
Increasing pressure on the ambulance service has been blamed and bosses at Yorkshire Ambulance Service (YAS) said private ambulance had been curtailed since the start of this year.
A spokeswoman said: “Although the trust has previously used private ambulance providers in its emergency service, it is not currently doing so.
“When demand for our emergency service is particularly high, our own resources have in the past, at times, been complemented by St John Ambulance, British Red Cross and private ambulance service providers.”
The figures, revealed through a Freedom of Information request, show that in 2010/11, 1,142 incidents were attended by private ambulances, including emergency, routine and urgent calls.
But by 2013/14, the total number was 13,302 – a rise of 1,064 per cent.
Spending on private providers by YAS, on both A&E and its Patient Transport Service – which operates routine journeys like hospital appointments, went up from £782,343 in 2011/12 to over £2.8m between April and December last year.
Private firms were often used so the ambulance service met response time targets, according to minutes of the YAS board of directors meetings.
Since January, the service has not used private ambulances for A&E calls – however bosses did not respond to questions from the Yorkshire Evening Post about how it has managed to do this.
Directors have previously been told a £277,000 scheme is in place to cut down on the use of non-NHS ambulances.
The YAS spokeswoman said the “overwhelming majority” of emergency calls were responded to using the service’s own staff and vehicles but private providers were used when demand was high, adding: “Safeguards and operating standards are in place to ensure that the use of private ambulance services does not compromise patient safety and the organisations we work with are all registered with the Care Quality Commission, the independent regulator. We are committed to providing responsive and high-quality services to people in Yorkshire and patient care and safety remain our highest priorities.”