NHS Grampian has been accused of causing misery for Elgin’s cabbies by contracting an Aberdeen based firm to drive patients home from Moray’s main hospital.
Health officials have recruited the Autoverdi taxi company, whose fleet is stationed in Bridge of Don, to transport outpatients from Dr Gray’s Hospital.
Autoverdi says that moves are in place to establish a base in Elgin so it can carry out the work.
But local taxi drivers have expressed reservations about the decision.
For the past eight years the NHS’s patient transport contract has been with Elgin based C&R Taxis.
Firm boss Rod McLennan said establishing a new fleet of cabs in the town to cater for hospital visits was “a joke”.
“Elgin is already over-saturated with taxis, so for a new company to set up here simply for patient trips is an absolute joke,” he said.
“Taxi driving in Elgin is a nightmare at the moment and adding another firm won’t help anyone.
“The company will need at least three cars, and you can go days without a hospital trip.
“It seems a really bizarre decision for NHS Grampian and this company to make.”
Mr McLennan added: “This isn’t sour grapes on our part, and I wish the new firm luck.
“But unless AutoVerdi offer all their customers taxis free of charge they will be empty.”
Though it no longer has the patient contract, C&R Taxis is continuing to transport patients for the health authority until Autoverdi establish a Moray camp.
Autoverdi’s operations director Ed Speakman said: “For licensing reasons we have to apply to the local authority to set up a base in Elgin, and that is under way.
“We have a commitment to ensuring the quick and safe transport of patients.
“But as we are still in conversations with the NHS about this, the details are not yet finalised about how and when the operation will be up and running.”
An NHS Grampian spokesman said AutoVerdi secured the contract after a tender process which evaluated quality of service to patients and cost.
He added: “With all our contracts we have a rigorous monitoring process in place to ensure that they are providing the highest level of service for both the organisation and, most importantly, patients.”