Major questions remain unanswered one week after the East of England Ambulance Service Trust published a summary report into the serious incident of downgrading of its responses particularly to patients needing end of life care.
Local MPs and health ministers are urged to read the trust’s full report into the serious incident and answer the following questions:
– Why did the trust not refer to the main downgrading for end of life care patients and the 57 deaths of these patients in its summary report published on 8 January?
– Why did the trust not commission a fully independent investigation and report into the serious incident given its scale and impact? Will the government now do so? The trust commissioned an ambulance official from another trust to investigate the processes that led to the downgrading but the investigation into the impact of downgrading was done internally and the report covering both aspects was written internally.
– Why did no one senior in the trust act to halt the downgrading when it was being discussed and planned for seven months before its implementation and was being implemented for two months? Why did it require staff concerned about the impact on end of life care patients to blow the whistle before any action was taken? Why did no one in the trust say that such a downgrading (from a “RED1” (eight minute emergency response) to a Green 3 (telephone triage within 20 minutes) for end of life care patients) required national approval as well as internal trust clearance? Why did it take almost a year for the trust to publish its report into the incident?
– Did any of the 57 terminally ill patients who died following the downgraded response die sooner than they should have done and did they and their families experience traumatic undignified deaths without support?
– Given the trust identified 57 deaths from a 56% sample of patients not conveyed by the trust as a result of the downgrading, why wasn’t a full sample done to ascertain whether more patients died?
– How can the trust say categorically that ‘no harm’ occurred as a result of 8,324 downgraded responses?
Denise Burke, an Act on Ambulances campaigner and Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for North Norfolk, said:
“We will continue to seek answers to these questions. Public services should be open and transparent and the ambulance trust has not been. Why do the trust and ministers continue to write off patients at the end of life?
As the minister for end of life care, Norman Lamb should know that leaving patients and their families without the care and support they need at this most critical time is a complete disregard of their dignity. We need to know whether any of these deaths were accelerated because of the downgrading.”