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North East Ambulance Service - cover up claims to be investigated

View profile for Neelam Chauhan
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It has been reported that North East Ambulance Service NHS Trust (NEAS) withheld information from coroners with relation to the deaths of patients. Concerns have been raised with regards to more than 90 cases and whistle-blowers believe North East Ambulance Service prevented full disclosure to relatives of people who died in 2018 and 2019.

In some cases, appropriate treatments had not been offered by paramedics, and the NHS service failed to provide full information to coroners’ officers. Whistleblowers have raised concerns dating back several years about the way in which the ambulance service dealt with coroner’s court cases – including the tragic case of Quinn Evie Milburn-Beadle.

Whistleblowers have also criticised a culture where candour was lacking. The matter was previously referred to the CQC and Northumbria Police. However, in late 2020, both the CQC and Northumbria Police closed the matter with no action taken.

What has been reported to date?

A report was produced by AuditOne who are auditors/anti-fraud team which are brought in to provide external investigations. They also create an assurance at public sector bodies around the North East. Investigators found that, in spring 2020 “the coroner is not being made aware of concerns and/or investigations being carried out by the Trust in a timely fashion”

Quinn Evie Milburn-Beadle died aged 17 on 9th December 2018. Her heart had stopped but at the time paramedics raised concerns that the first paramedic on the scene had not performed ‘full advanced life support procedure’ before declaring she had died.

An internal investigation at North East Ambulance Service NHS Trust found this to have been the case. The coroner who was overseeing Miss Milburn-Beadle’s inquest was not at the time informed that an investigation into this element of her death, the extent to which she was given CPR, had been undertaken.

Once the report was available, the investigation report was altered before it was submitted to the coroner. There was evidence within the report relating to an ECG reading, however, this was removed before it was submitted. AuditOne who were called to investigate the conduct wrote in a report “a strategy meeting took place to discuss the contents of the report a decision was reached that findings in relation to the ECG activity should be removed and the conclusions amended. No minutes were taken of this meeting, and nothing was documented as to the rationale behind the decision”. AuditOne also found that the altered report was in direct contrast to what had initially been written.

Other cases considered in detail by AuditOne include those of Peter Coates, Sandra Currington and Andrew Wilson.

North East Ambulance Service NHS Trust accepts that there were ‘historical failings’ with its processes on this front, but maintains these have been resolved.

What will happen now?

Dehenna Davison, the MP for Bishop Auckland, has called on the government to intervene and address the service’s cultural and organisational failures. Health Secretary Sadiq Javid has been asked to authorise an immediate intervention from the central government.

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