NHS Lothian has forked out a whopping £1.4 million on taxis for patients in just four years.
The health board says it is now using more taxis instead of other modes of transport and has moved away from using private ambulances.
A Freedom of Information request submitted by the Evening News found that health chiefs had spent £418,487 last year, a rise of 30 per cent since 2013.
The private taxis are used for a variety of tasks including transporting patients to and from hospital, delivering specimens and notes from medical staff out of normal working hours.
Unison Lothian branch chairman Tam Waterson said he was “extremely disappointed” that taxi costs are still high.
He said: “The union did a lot of work on this a number of years ago, although to be fair it was at £1 million a year at that point about ten years ago. I still think we better need to utilise public transport and use the pool cars that we have.
“We need to keep a better eye on it and tighten the controls on those who are allowed to use contract taxis.”
The health board said its taxi costs had increased over recent years for a variety of reasons and that it aimed to use its existing fleet of vehicles and use the Royal Voluntary Service who help transform the lives of vulnerable and isolated older people across the region.
George Curley, Director of Facilities, NHS Lothian, said: “Our taxi costs have increased over recent years for various reasons, including inflation to taxi rates and increased usage during Out of Hours, to transfer patients safely across Lothian.
“NHS Lothian’s Flow Centre manages all transport for admissions, transfers and discharges within normal working hours and aim to reduce taxi spend for these patients, by utilising NHS Lothian vehicles and RVS drivers.”
Edinburgh Southern Labour MSP Daniel Johnson said the spend on patient taxis pointed to a lack of provision of transport.
He said: “It is disappointing that spending on taxis for patients has increased so sharply. This points to a wider issue about the lack of provision of transport for patients.
“No-one would begrudge the use of the odd taxi here and there when there are no other vehicles available and a patient needs to get home, but with hundreds of thousands of pounds of spending it looks like it is becoming more of an everyday measure.”
Shadow Heath Secretary Miles Briggs, said: “Lothian residents will be shocked that so much taxpayers’ money is being spent on taxis for patients at a time when pressures on NHS budgets are so intense. It is alarming the amount being spent is rising fast year-on-year and reached an eye-watering figure of almost £420,000 in 2016.”