Two days after the shock exposure that the East of England ambulance trust had downgraded calls affecting 8,324 patients between December 2013 and February 2014, the trust has finally released the full report into the serious incident. Originally the trust only published a two page summary on 8 January 2015.
As a result, Act on Ambulances campaigners from the North Norfolk Labour Party have called for a review of how the downgraded calls affected the treatment of end of life care patients, 57 of whom died in the two months of the serious incident.
One formal complaint about a downgraded 999 call also needs to be further explored for its impact.
The campaigners are calling for action from Mr Anthony Marsh – the outgoing Chief Executive of the East of England Ambulance Service Trust.
Denise Burke, an Act on Ambulances campaigner and Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for North Norfolk, said:
“It beggars belief that this serious incident happened at the trust. It was seven months in the planning and then went on for more than two months without any senior manager or board member raising concerns. Someone must have known what was going on and we need to be told who.
“What is most shocking is the way patients who were near the end of life were treated. The report reveals that 57 end of life care patients died during the two month period and we need to know whether their death was accelerated by the downgrading of the calls.
“It is shocking that this particularly vulnerable group of patients were effectively written off by the trust and that responses to them were downgraded from Red1 to Green3, meaning that instead of an emergency response vehicle they were given telephone triage.
“Any change in codes like this should have been cleared through national bodies as well as internally by the trust. We need an urgent review of the care received by these 57 patients and the impact on them and their families.
“It also beggars belief that while 8,324 were affected by the downgrading, none came to any harm as a result.
“The report’s credibility is undermined by the fact that it was written by the trust’s own interim Head of Quality Governance (not by the external investigator who looked at the failures of trust processes) and that the harm analysis was done internally by the trust. Why did it take so long for the report to be published and released in these circumstances?”