THERE are some extremely serious concerns being raised about the operation of the North East Ambulance Service and, following yesterday’s very pointed debate in the House of Commons, the Government is being forced to get a grip on them.

The minister has a difficult job because some of the most eye-catching and offensive allegations – that the ambulance service provided false information to coroners over the manner in which patients died – have already been investigated by police who didn’t find evidence to support them.

However, no one is denying that even into this year, NEAS staff members were asked to sign non disclosure agreements (NDAs) in return for £40,000. Labour’s shadow health secretary Wes Streeting called these agreements “taxpayer-funded gagging orders”, and Durham North West Conservative MP Richard Holden said: “NDAs have no place in our NHS because they go to the heart of preventing the positive change that we need to see and the learning that we need to see from mistakes.”

We must accept that genuine mistakes happen in any walk of life, including the health service, but, especially in the health service where people’s lives are at risk, those mistakes must be dealt with openly and honestly.

NDAs suggest to ordinary people that there is something to hide. They are more about protecting an organisation’s reputation than they are about getting to the truth – that’s why NDAs were banned in the NHS in 2014. They are morally indefensible. It will be very hard for the public to have confidence in any NEAS manager who thought that striking an NDA with a concerned member of staff was the way to solving the service’s problems.