Chief defends record after probe reveals heart patient died due to ‘lost ambulance keys’

EMAS has defended its record
EMAS has defended its record

East Midlands Ambulance Service has defended its record after it was revealed a heart patient died due to delays because of “lost ambulance keys”.

The death, which happened in 2013, was highlighted following a Freedom of Information request made by the BBC into the number of ‘serious incidents’ involving ambulance services across the country.

They found that the number of these incidents has risen by 12% in five years nationally - although the number involving the East Midlands Service (EMAS) fell in 2016/7 compared with 2015/6.

Union Unison said the rise reflected “intolerable pressures” facing ambulance workers, but the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives said the incidents amounted to a “tiny” number of patient journeys.

“Serious incidents” (SIs) are defined by the NHS as “adverse events” needing a “heightened level of response”.

Reported cases highlighted by the BBC investigation included:

In 2013, a heart patient in the East Midlands area died due to delays because of “lost ambulance keys”

In 2015, the East Midlands Ambulance Service received an allegation of sexual assault by a staff member against an elderly woman.

Judith Douglas, Director of Quality and Nursing at East Midlands Ambulance Service said: “We take patient and staff safety very seriously and continue to focus on improving safety and quality of care.

“When responding to emergency 999 and urgent calls our aim is always to provide the very best care. Often we assess and treat patients in challenging environments, busy locations and in difficult and sometimes hostile situations, and sometimes things don’t go to plan.

“When that happens it is important that the incident is reported and that we investigate to determine what happened and why. We talk with the people involved including, where possible, the patient, relatives, bystanders who provided help, and our staff.

“When it is possible to take action to reduce future potential harm to patients or staff we take it. We also anonymise incidents and share learning with our colleagues across the service.

“Being transparent about patient safety incidents is a sign of an organisation developing a mature safety culture.

“Using the reported data alongside other ambulance service measures including clinical outcomes and patient satisfaction also enables people, our regulators and commissioners to monitor the type of service experienced by the majority of our patients.”

In 2015/2016 at EMAS, 1 in every 20,515 emergency and urgent calls resulted in a report of a serious incident.

Since 1 April 2017, EMAS has reported 9 serious incidents and responded to 320,934 emergency and urgent calls.

For more on the BBC investigation click here