THE region’s ambulance service spent more than £4 million on taxis to take patients to and from hospital last year.

West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) doubled the amount it spent on taxis for non-urgent work, spending £4,082,556 in 2018/19, up from £2,028,745 the year before.

However, WMAS has bucked a national trend by cutting the amount it spends on private ambulances.

In the West Midlands, more than £300,000 was spent on private ambulances in 2017/18, but that fell to zero last year.

Despite the millions spent on taxis, the figures are far lower than many other ambulance trusts.

East Midlands Ambulance Service, for example, spent almost £7 million on private ambulances last year.

A spokesman for West Midlands Ambulance Service said: “The trust has stopped using private providers and charitable organisations in its non-emergency patient transport service (PTS).

“The trust does use some taxis as part of its PTS operation and having secured three new contracts in the last year, this will explain the rise.

“However, we are actively reducing this figure as much as possible.”

The trust said it uses taxis for non-emergency patient transport services such as healthcare appointments and taking people to and from hospital.

WMAS said it does not use taxis or private providers for 999 emergency services.

Figures from 10 ambulance trusts in England show that more than £92 million was spent on private ambulances and taxis - up from £90.8 million a year earlier.

Private ambulances were sent to five per cent of all 999 incidents last year - up from 2.6 per cent the year before.

That equates to 26,428 incidents compared to 12,947 the previous year.

The news comes after WMAS lost the contract for the county’s non-emergency patient transport services (NEPTS).

Private firm E-zec Medical Transport is set to take over the service in April 2020.

WMAS, which held the contract for 30 years, said it lost out on running the service because a financial cap was put on the new contract.