More than £1 million of NHS Fife funds have been used to pay the taxi fares of patients in the past three years, The Courier can reveal.
Figures obtained through a Freedom of Information request show the health authority spent almost £300,000 in providing fares for patients’ private taxis in the past financial year.
The expenditure has been defended as a means of benefiting patients and the health service but a campaign group says it believes the system could be open to abuse and said the public would rather see the money spent on providing care.
NHS Fife’s website states bus fares can be claimed by patients for several reasons, including those who receive Family Tax Credits, Job Seekers Allowance or War Pension, but no mention is made of how to claim taxi fares.
Figures for the past three financial years show taxi costs have reduced from £371,000 in 2014/15 to just over £299,000 in 2016/17.
The overwhelming majority of the accumulated fares originated at Kirkcaldy’s Victoria Hospital, peaking in 2015/16 at £197,316.
This was reduced last year to £157,936, with fares involving patients at Stratheden Hospital tallying just under £41,000, and Queen Margaret Hospital in Dunfermline £20,530.
NHS Fife Director of Finance Carol Potter said: “NHS Fife use taxi companies that have been appointed following a thorough tendering process.
“There are instances when patients who require care and need help with transport are more appropriately served by the use of private taxis.
“Criteria taken into account includes patients (or partner) being in receipt of certain benefits, for example, income support, pension credit guarantee credit.
“The use of taxis also allows flexibility in transporting, where appropriate, some patients’ home more quickly instead of waiting for other transport.
“This benefits the patient and the service.”
James Price, campaign manager at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Taxpayers will be aggrieved to realise that more than £1 million of their money is being used not on life-saving cancer drugs or A&E, but on ferrying people around in taxis.
“NHS Fife should clarify the rules for who is allowed a taxi, and there should be more scrutiny of its spending so that money is spent where it can actually help the sick.”