East of England Ambulance Service whistleblower triggers ‘risk summit’ over death claims

PUBLISHED: 07:03 26 January 2018

Archant

Claims that at least 40 patients were either harmed or died due to delays from the region’s ambulance service over Christmas and New Year are being investigated, including one person who froze to death.

A damning report compiled by a whistleblower in a senior position at the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust has triggered a ‘risk summit’ involving NHS England, NHS Improvement and healthcare watchdog the Care Quality Commission.

The report says between December 18 and January 3 at least 19 people died and 21 people were harmed after significant delays in the ambulance service reaching these patients.

One man waited outside for 16 hours for an ambulance and appeared to have frozen to death when he was found by police on December 27.

A patient in cardiac arrest died after waiting more than seven hours for an ambulance.

As a result of extreme pressure, the ambulance service went into REAP Level 4 on December 31, which means only RED calls – life-threatening emergencies such as a heart attack – were responded to and a ‘no send policy’ was implemented for G1-G4 incidents, which include serious injury such as an RTA requiring a response within 20 minutes.

For four days, the ambulance trust even resorted to using taxis to transport patients to hospital.

On Jan 9, the NHS trust returned to REAP Level 3 – severe pressure. Service delivery director Kevin Brown said: “The reduction should not detract from the severity of the pressure. Previously, we operated for a considerable period at REAP 3, which is reflective of the significant capacity gap.”

The Minister of State for the Department of Health, Stephen Barclay, said: “NHS England and NHS Improvement will be holding a joint risk summit regarding the ambulance trust in the next week – the CQC will be in attendance.”

An ambulance trust spokesman said: “We were unable to respond to a very small number of the 50,000 calls we handled over a 15-day period as quickly as we would like. The trust is undertaking a rigorous analysis of that small proportion of calls and reviewing the effectiveness of any plans.

“Depending on any preliminary insight, we will invite an independent review of our decision-making process, and have also requested a system-wide review of these periods of high demand and lost capacity.”

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