THE North East Ambulance Service has reported itself to the Care Quality Commission after discovering its paramedics had given patients 75 doses of out-of-date drugs, including morphine.

Bosses at the NEAS said the problem was discovered during a routine audit of drugs earlier this year.

Ambulance officials said no patients had been put at risk due to the drugs being out-of-date but acknowledged that their potency to provide pain relief may have been impaired.

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By the time ambulance bosses had realised they had a problem – and taken action to stop it happening again - a total of 75 doses had been administered by 26 paramedics.

The medicines dispensed by paramedics which were found to be out-of-date included two forms of morphine and a form of diazepam known as Diazamul.

Morphine is used to relieve severe pain that can be caused by heart attack, injury, surgery or chronic disease such as cancer.

Diazepam is used as an anti-anxiety drug, a muscle relaxant and as an anti-convulsant.

In a statement to The Northern Echo the NEAS said: “During a routine audit by NEAS, a number of out-of-date controlled drugs were found to have been administered to patients. In total 75 doses had been administered by 26 paramedics.

“The specific medicines were Morphine, Oramorph oral suspension and Diazamuls. No patients were put at risk due to the drugs being out of date, though their potency to provide pain relief may have been less effective.

“The Care Quality Commission and Monitor – a health watchdog – are aware of the situation, along with our commissioners.

“Since the error came to light we have tightened-up our controlled medicines checking procedures.”

A spokeswoman for the Care Quality Commission said: “We can confirm we were alerted by the NEAS in April.

"We asked them for an action plan and after reviewing that plan we were reassured that the actions taken by the trust to mitigate the risk were robust.”

But the CQC said their inspectors would be returning to the NEAS to make a follow-up inspection of how the trust was keeping drugs secure, including controlled drugs.

This followed an earlier visit by CQC inspectors to the trust in February which found the NEAS non-compliant in the storage of medicines.