£6k bill to taxi NHS staff to work

Whitegate Drive health centre and (below) Barry Stoll who said the �6k bill was ridiculous.
Whitegate Drive health centre and (below) Barry Stoll who said the �6k bill was ridiculous.
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Heath chiefs in Blackpool today came under fire for spending more than £6,000 on taxis to chauffeur staff to work.

NHS Blackpool paid out £6,300 in cab fares for staff to go to and from the Whitegate Drive Health Centre in just 12 months.

Barry Stoll who said the �6k bill was ridiculous.

Barry Stoll who said the �6k bill was ridiculous.

Bosses say the cash was spent to run a park and ride scheme for staff to ensure there was enough patient parking at the site.

But campaigners today said the health budget “should be spent on treating the sick, not running people round in cabs”.

Barry Stoll, from Marton, who was given a fine after parking in a residential street due to the centre’s overcrowded car park, has described the figure as “ridiculous”.

Mr Stoll, who is currently taking legal action against Blackpool Council over the incident, said: “It’s a lot of money and it would’ve been better if they could’ve sorted out an area close by that they could park in – that would’ve made more sense.”

Since the £20m health centre opened in 2009, patients have complained they are forced to park in neighbouring streets and residents-only restrictions have led to some being given parking tickets.

Today health bosses were told to look at alternative methods to using the taxis.

Paul Maynard, MP for Blackpool North and Cleveleys, said: “I would hope they are able to look at other alternatives like car sharing or better planning to reduce these expenses. If there is a bus there’s no reason why staff shouldn’t utilise the buses.”

Gordon Marsden, MP for Blackpool South, says Blackpool Clinical Commissioning Group, the body which has succeeded NHS Blackpool, needs to address the matter urgently, saying it was “not an issue which is going to go away.”

Matthew Sinclair, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “The NHS budget should be spent on treating the sick, not running people around in cabs.”

The figure was revealed to the Gazette under the Freedom of Information Act.

The response said: “£6,300 – park and ride scheme for staff to ensure maximum parking availability for patients at the centre.”

The cabs ferried staff between Blackpool Cricket Club, at Stanley Park, and the centre during two one hour-long windows in the morning and the evening.

Fylde coast council tax campaigner Derek Bunting, from Bispham, said: “This idea of staff just picking up taxis willy nilly doesn’t make sense to me.

“Maybe in an emergency, if people have to go from A to B, I can see its use, but as a matter of routine I would say no.”

NHS Blackpool refused to reveal which staff grade at the centre were able to use taxis.

Due to a national restructure of the NHS in England, NHS Blackpool’ ceased to exist and its responsibilities were taken over by Clinical Commissioning Groups and the NHS Trust Development Authority.

A spokesman on behalf of the former organisation issued the following statement: “The costs incurred were for a staff park and ride service to enable healthcare professionals to work at Whitegate Health Centre while ensuring maximum parking facilities for patients.”

Blackpool Council is proposing to provide 200 new parking spaces on land at Stanley Park following the demolition of former greenhouses and gardeners’ cottages.

The scheme will see 50 spaces allocated to workers based at the Whitegate Drive Health Centre.

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GAZETTE VIEWPOINT

In Spitting Image – the satirical TV puppet show of the 1980s – the Queen was portrayed as someone who was a cut above.

“My subjects... you, the little people” was very much how the rubber version of our monarch addressed the nation’s rank and file each Sunday night.

Some felt it was a tad unfair and was a sweeping generalisation of those who live in big houses.

Others felt it a perceptive view of those in power, either within the monarchy or, in the case of governments and local councils, voted in by those very same “little people”.

In the last two days The Gazette has reported on two cases of how the public has not been listened to – and at a cost.

Yesterday, we revealed how Blackpool Council is considering reverting the resort’s controversial shared space Promenade roadway back to four lanes.

There were many who warned the council the two-lane road, with no street markings, would be dangerous and trigger gridlock at peak times.

However, the council decided in its wisdom to ignore the views of bus/taxi drivers and commuters and plough ahead with the scheme on the advice of so-called experts.

Today, we reveal how the car park at Whitegate Drive health centre is so small staff are now being shipped in by taxi.

Of course, £6,300 is not a king’s ransom – let’s face it, it’s a drop in the ocean when considering the cash given to bodies such as (the former) NHS Blackpool to deliver health care in the town.

But that is not the point. It is £6,300 which could have been better spent.

What is concerning is this appears to be another example of the public’s view seemingly being ignored.

Car parking was questioned at the time of the building of Blackpool’s three state-of-the-art health centres. The belief staff and patients would all simply jump on buses – as part of a 
“requirement” to “encourage people to use other means of transport” – has proved flawed.

And again, it’s costing the little people.

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