A WHISTLEBLOWER who alleged mistakes by paramedics were being covered up by the region’s ambulance service has said he was offered £41,000 to stay silent.

Coroners’ officer Paul Calvert has spoken out about the withdrawal of key evidence in cases where patients had died and inquests were being held.

The Northern Echo:

The 48-year-old former police officer, who believes he is facing the sack from North East Ambulance Service, has said the 90 or so cases he was aware of could just be the ‘tip of the iceberg’.

He said he has been ‘bullied, harassed and blackmailed’ over the last three years and offered cash to stay quiet about his findings.

Mr Calvert, from Peterlee, said: “The trust offered me £41,000 to walk away and not to tell any of these agencies what was going on.

“The last three years have been horrendous. They have done everything to try to destroy me by bullying me, marginalising me and by belittling what I have got to say.”

The case was raised in the House of Commons on Wednesday by Easington MP Grahame Morris who said the father-of-two had ‘bravely exposed the North East Ambulance Service’s management failures, and indeed criminal negligence, of cover-ups of patient deaths’.

The Northern Echo: Easington MP Grahame MorrisEasington MP Grahame Morris

Health Secretary Sajid Javid expressed concern and indicated the trust faces a “much broader powerful review”.

Mr Calvert’s concerns came to light last month when The Sunday Times reported that he believed NEAS had prevented relatives from knowing the full details about how their loved ones died in 2018 and 2019.

One of the cases highlighted was that of 17-year-old Quinn Beadle, from Shildon, who took her own life three-and-a-half years ago.

The Northern Echo: Tracey Beadle. Picture: SARAH CALDECOTTTracey Beadle. Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

Her mother, Tracey, who said she was ‘horrified’ by the widespread nature of the allegations has since called for a full investigation.

Mr Calvert said he feared a Government-backed inquiry would be a ‘whitewash’ and said there must be a public inquiry.

Mr Calvert said: “I believe this is the only way this is going to be resolved. “There has to be a truly independent investigation, without fear or favour, where people are compelled to attend and give evidence.

“If there is a Government-backed investigation there will be some form of whitewash, there will be a partial truth.”

Mr Calvert has been off work since July 8 last year with stress as a result of his whistleblowing and has been prescribed medication to help him cope.

A review meeting arranged, he believes to discuss terminating his employment with NEAS, was due to be held tomorrow, but Mr Calvert said shortly after the case was raised in Parliament he received an email saying the trust was ‘minded to stay the meeting’.

Mr Calvert said: “I am being left in limbo. I have been off poorly since July 8 last year and since then I have been bullied and harassed the whole time I have been off.

“They are trying to make it go away but this has been going on for three years.

“Every time I go to the trust they try and belittle me, but more and more families are coming out of the woodwork and are saying ‘we were never told that’.”

The Northern Echo: Quinn Beadle Quinn Beadle

In Quinn’s case, crucial information from her final moments was withheld by the paramedic who treated her, including the reading from a monitor showing heart activity.

North East Ambulance Service was found to have amended a statement given to the coroner at her first inquest in April 2019, removing references to mistakes the paramedic had made, such as failing to clear her airways, and adding claims that life support would ‘not have had a positive outcome’. 

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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