06/03/2017 00:01 GMT | Updated 06/03/2017 08:03 GMT

Non-Emergency Patients Could Be Transferred Using Uber Taxis Under New Deal

Uber taxis could soon be used to transfer non-emergency patients to and from hospital after a deal was struck between an NHS trust and social care company Cera.

The deal with Barts Health NHS Trust in London will see patients able to use Uber for journeys including hospital appointments and generally getting out-and-about when they might otherwise be housebound or reliant on family and friends, Cera said.

The firm will use the UberAssist disabled access cars and the UberWav service for wheelchair users.

It will also be available to carers, using the app alongside traditional forms of transport to determine the most efficient for moving people, the firm said.

NHS patients with illnesses ranging from cancer to dementia will be looked after by Cera carers under the new London scheme, which uses a smartphone app to coordinate care, book drivers, and keep relatives informed of their care.

Dr Ben Maruthappu, Cera's co-founder and president, said the move would "radically integrate care and transport through technology", adding: "Older people and those with disabilities will now have access to the highest quality drivers, while carers will be able to efficiently travel to ensure they can provide services in the right place at the right time."

As well as the five London hospitals that make up the trust, clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in Harrow, Brent and Hillingdon will also use the Cera service.

David Mowat, Minister of State for Community and Social Care, said: "This is an interesting and innovative proposal which will help raise awareness of the challenges faced by the vulnerable elderly, ‎and those with specific conditions that are becoming increasingly common in our society. 

"I look forward to hearing more about the results in due course."

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: "Social care and the NHS are in such a state of crisis that any initiative to ease the pressure will be welcomed by patients and staff.

"But the funding chasm between what is needed and the pitiful amount councils currently have to commission care is too deep.

"Nothing short of an emergency injection of cash in the Budget, followed by the sustained and realistic funding of health and care will be enough.

"The Government must also ensure that all companies that win care contracts don't exploit staff and pay at the very least the minimum wage.

"Sadly there are still many out there breaking the law and getting away with it."