North East Ambulance Service to be subjected to NHS review

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An inquiry into allegations of mistakes being covered up by the region’s paramedics is to be carried out, the Health Secretary has confirmed.

Sajid Javid said NHS England would be investigating ‘tragic failings’ within North East Ambulance Service recently exposed by a whistleblower.

The announcement has been welcomed by the region’s MPs who pressed for a review after hearing heartbreaking testimonies from the families of patients who died.

The service said it would welcome ‘independent scrutiny’ but the family of a man who died while waiting for an ambulance said the review would not be enough.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid

Mr Javid said: “Patient safety is a top priority and I am deeply concerned over the tragic failings of the North East Ambulance Service.

“The NHS will launch a full independent review into this issue to establish exactly what happened and ensure these events do not happen again.”

The Department of Health and Social Care said more details about the review would be shared in due course.

The Northern Echo: Whistleblower Paul CalvertWhistleblower Paul Calvert

Concerns about NEAS were first raised by the service’s coroners’ officer Paul Calvert, from Peterlee, in the Sunday Times.  

Read more: North East ambulance whistleblower offered £41k to stay silent

He alleges the service withheld details from coroners in more than 90 cases between 2018 and 2019 and said he was offered £41,000 to keep silent.

One of the patients was 17-year-old Quinn Beadle, from Shildon, who took her own life three-and-a-half years ago.

Her mother, Tracey, was ‘horrified’ by the allegations has called for a full investigation.

The Northern Echo: Tracey BeadleTracey Beadle

Mr Calvert told the Northern Echo he feared a Government-backed inquiry would be a ‘whitewash’ and said there must be a public inquiry.

Read more: Mum ‘horrified’ at scale of North East ambulance ‘cover ups’

The call is echoed by the family of Peter Coates, from Dormanstown near Redcar, who had lung disease and used a machine for oxygen.

An ambulance was called in 2019 when the 62-year-old’s oxygen machine failed during a power cut, but he died while waiting.

His daughter Kellie Coates told the BBC she was “shocked” at how much information had been “withheld” by NEAS.

She said an NHS review was not enough as she feared it would “not give us the thoroughness we need to get to the truth”.

Ms Coates said: “The challenge with an independent inquiry is surely that’s the same people investigating themselves.

“It still doesn’t feel to me that’s a fair process.”

Redcar MP Jacob Young said he was ‘very grateful’ to the Health Secretary for confirming the review.

He said: “We must fully understand the failings of the past, in order to prevent the tragedies of the future.”

The Northern Echo: Dehenna Davison MPDehenna Davison MP

Bishop Auckland MP Dehenna Davison, who spoke to during the subsequent debate on the issue in Parliament, also welcomed the review.

She said: “After so many heart wrenching local cases being raised with me and other North East MPs, I’m very grateful to the Health Secretary for ensuring there will be a full, independent review into the North East Ambulance Service.

“Too many families have heartbreaking stories to tell. We must ensure we learn lessons from the mistakes that have been made so that future tragedies are prevented.”

Chief executive of North East Ambulance Service, Helen Ray, said her thoughts are with those affected.

The Northern Echo: Helen Ray Helen Ray

She said: “Following recent concerns raised in the media and through some of our local MPs, we have been working closely with our regulators to ensure that there is full and transparent sharing of any learning from our internal investigations.

“We welcome this independent scrutiny which will make sure that the families we serve and our staff have the levels of assurance they need.

“As ever our main thoughts remain with the families affected.”

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