Ambulance service 'put patients at risk'

South East Coast Ambulance Service
South East Coast Ambulance Service

Approximately 20,000 calls were subject to deliberate delays.

An NHS report into a project by South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb) has confirmed 25 patients were affected by the decision to delay care – with seven “serious incidents”and five deaths.

The ambulance trust has been investigated following a project known as R3/G5 - run between December 2014 to February 2015 - which allowed an extra ten minutes for assessments before ambulances were dispatched to some urgent calls.

Although SECAmb said there is “no evidence”patients were “negatively impacted” during the process, a report by NHS England states: “Commissioners identified 25 incidents associated with the Red 3 project and seven of these incidents appeared to meet the serious incident criteria. The trust itself had only identified two serious incidents.”

Approximately 20,000 calls were subject to deliberate delays. The report said one patient, who died, waited 35 minutes for an ambulance, and care for an eight-day old baby was delayed by nine minutes.

The report states: “No conclusions can be made as to the safety and efficacy of the project, which is disappointing as the learning may well have helped urgent care communities across England.”

Paul Sutton, chief executive of SECAmb said: “As paramedics, we come to work to save lives and we would never do anything to deliberately put patients at risk. We understand the concerns that the public have and wish to reassure people that we work constantly to provide the safest service possible.

“We recognise that the proper processes were not fully followed in setting up the project and we do apologise for this.”

Peter Kyle, Labour MP for Hove and Portslade, said he will “stop at nothing” to find out the truth about what happened.

He said: “I am calling for whoever was behind for this trail to take full responsibility for their actions, for the trust to release all information for public scrutiny, and for an inquiry to determine if governance and leadership of the trust is fit for purpose.”

Frances McCabe, chair of Healthwatch Brighton and Hove, said SECAmb “jeopardised” patients’ rights to critical care and put them at risk adding it might be impossible as the project was not evaluated.