Ambulance failings may have played a part in 59 deaths

10:44 07 January 2014

Archant

Ambulance service failings may have contributed to almost 60 deaths in the region in the last three-and-a-half years, according to new figures.

How serious is serious?

A serious incident at an NHS funded service is defined as:

Unexpected or avoidable death of one or more patients, staff, visitors or members of the public.

Serious harm to one or more patients, staff, visitors or members of the public or where the outcome requires life-saving intervention, major surgical/medical intervention, permanent harm or will shorten life expectancy or result in prolonged pain or psychological harm

A scenario that prevents or threatens to prevent a provider organisation’s ability to continue to deliver healthcare services, for example, actual or potential loss of personal/organisational information, damage to property, reputation or the environment, or IT failure.

Allegations of abuse.

Adverse media coverage or public concern about the organisation or the wider NHS.

Data loss and serious breaches of confidentiality.

The new chief executive of the East of England Ambulance Service has been urged to restore the public’s confidence and urgently improve performance after new figures revealed that the number of serious incidents reported to the trust almost doubled in the space of a year.

A total of 155 serious incidents have been logged at the NHS trust since April 2010, of which 59 relate to unexpected or avoidable deaths of patients.

Figures revealed by the NHS trust, thanks to a Freedom of Information request, show that there were 27 serious incidents (SI) across the six counties in 2010/11, of which 15 related to the deaths of patients.

During the 2011/12 financial year, the number of SIs jumped to 51, with 17 relating to the deaths of patients, and there were 52 serious incidents in 2012/13, of which 18 related to patient deaths.

The ambulance trust was ordered to take urgent action last year to raise performance following an inspection by the health watchdog, the Care Quality Commission.

The figures come as Anthony Marsh, chief executive of the West Midlands Ambulance Service, started his new role as the part time CEO of the East of England Ambulance Service last week.

Denise Burke, from the Act on Ambulances campaign, said the figures were “worrying” and highlighted the need for more front-line staff.

“Our hope is that with Anthony Marsh starting in his new role, we hope he will start to turn things around and improve the recruitment of paramedics, which is the only way we are going to get more response vehicles on the ground and reducing serious incidents.

“Additional paramedics will enable more ambulances, which has got to help response times. However, it is not just about recruiting extra paramedics, the trust needs additional funding,” she said.

Scott Turner, interim medical director, for EEAST, said: “We would like to extend our sympathies to the families of all of the patients, and in each case we have been open with the family to inform them of the process, and then the findings of the investigation.

“In each of these cases, the patients were already very unwell upon the arrival of the ambulance and died as a result of their illness. It’s therefore not always possible to determine whether a different course of action by our clinicians would have led to a different outcome.”

He added: “It must be remembered that the number of serious incidents reported every year is a tiny percentage of the total number of jobs we attend.

“Ideally there would be no serious incidents at all but when they do happen, it is important to look into them and we always encourage staff to flag any issues they have in order for them to be fully investigated.

“Each serious incident is thoroughly examined and reported externally, and measures put into place to help prevent such incidents happening again.”

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