Health Secretary considering inquiry into North East Ambulance Service after cover up accusations

NEAS confirmed the reports and say the necessary improvements have now been made. Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees

The Health Secretary is considering launching an independent review about allegations of a cover-up at a North East ambulance trust.

Speaking at a Health and Social Care Committee of MPs, Sajid Javid said he was 'very concerned' about the reports, and is asking for advice on whether another investigation should go ahead.

North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) has been accused of covering up evidence about deaths linked to mistakes made by paramedics.

The Sunday Times reported that concerns were raised about more than 90 cases, with the paper saying whistleblowers believed NEAS had prevented relatives from knowing the full details about how their loved ones died in 2018 and 2019.

NEAS confirmed this and said two independent investigations were issued with reports released in 2019 and 2020, which found improvements were needed.

They also said a police investigation found no evidence of more serious allegations that the trust had deliberately failed to disclose, hide or destroy evidence.

The service says it has made significant improvements and its procedures relating to coroners are now independently audited.

Sajid Javid told MPs: "I am very concerned about what I read and what I understand to be the situation and there has been a review by NHS England into this.

"What I am considering though is whether there should be a more independent review of the allegations that have been made.

"Those allegations deeply concern me, especially around potential cover ups, including of deaths, and that is something I take incredibly seriously.

"So I'm seriously considering at this point and have asked for advice on whether we should have an independent review."

NEAS Chief Executive Helen Ray said: “Utmost in our mind are the families affected and we unreservedly apologise for the distress we have caused to them.

“We had a number of issues, dating back to 2019, which meant we needed to fully review and revise our reporting mechanisms.

“When concerns were raised, we acted. The findings of independent reviews that we commissioned reported that we had issues with our governance and process, but there was no evidence that information was being withheld.

“We fully accepted the findings of these reviews, and a task group was established to ensure full disclosure to coroners of any historical reports and a change to the process in place for dealing with future disclosures.

“Claims made that we continue to fail in respect of disclosure are incorrect. We have reaudited our process, worked with coroners and with the CQC. We are confident that the system in place now is robust.”

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