HOSPITAL meals are being driven 15 miles by private taxi from one hospital to another – twice a day, seven days a week.
Meals for patients at St Margaret’s Hospital in Auchterarder are being prepared at Perth Royal Infirmary (PRI), before being transported to the hospital by a local taxi firm.
The meals are being taxied to patients owing to a shortage of staff in the kitchen at St Margaret’s since their chef retired two months ago.
And the 20 minute journey is said to cost around £25 per trip – although the hospital has a contract with a firm in order to reduce the cost.
The information was revealed by an anonymous employee at the hospital, who spoke out to a local paper, calling it a “ludicrous waste of money.”
He said: “The chef at St Margaret’s Hospital has been on sick leave for six months, so hospital management have started sending meals from PRI twice a day, seven days a week, using a taxi.
“They’re using taxis instead of just replacing staff and it is a ludicrous waste of money. If you’ve ever been on a night out, you’ll know the cost of using a taxi.
“There were millions of pounds spent on Perth’s Murray Royal Hospital, but they didn’t put a kitchen in there either. Meals are prepared at PRI and transported.
“The NHS has no problem in replacing middle management, but they won’t replace kitchen staff, which makes it harder for everyone.
“It’s farcical what money is being spent on.”
Eben Wilson, director of Taxpayer Scotland hit out at the move, saying: “Once again we see how NHS planning can go terribly wrong.
“No doubt this has come about because of top-down centralisation, with local management having to administer their service to some mandatory plan rather than being allowed to operate flexibly to known local circumstances.
“Taxpayers pay through the nose for this mandatory approach to operations planning. We need to break our health board operations down much further so that local managers can resolve these silly practices”.
Liz Smith, MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, said: “This seems an extraordinary state of affairs, even if it is on a temporary basis.
“This is surely even more reason why the necessary cover could be provided by a local supplier, many of whom, I am sure, would be delighted to assist to cover the short-term problem.”
Mark Scholes, NHS Tayside’s head of site and support services, said that around 16 meals are being prepared at the PRI and taxied down the road every day.
He stressed that the arrangement was temporary, adding: “The provision of meals from St Margaret’s has been proving difficult for us to sustain due to unplanned absence and the recent retiral of the head cook.
“For a short time, we were able to cover this absence with a member of staff from Crieff Community Hospital. This option was not sustainable.
“St Margaret’s Hospital provides care for up to eight patients in its GP ward and, due to these small numbers, it is currently more feasible and cost-effective to provide meals from PRI, which has a large kitchen and already produces meals for patients within PRI and at the nearby Murray Royal Hospital.”