A mother who was misled by medical failures over her daughter’s death said she was ‘shocked and horrified’ to learn there were potentially many more ‘cover-ups’.
Whistleblower claims from the North East Ambulance Service, which were reported over the weekend, suggest there have been around 90 cases in the past three years in which the organization has not not been honest with the families about the deaths of their loved ones.
Tracey Beadle, who lost Quinn, 17, to suicide, said the allegations, which are disputed by NEAS, suggest “systemic failure” and called for a full investigation.
Tracey, from Shildon, said: ‘I wasn’t aware of the extent. It shows systemic failure and there is an innate culture of just covering things up rather than raising a hand and apologizing.
Crucial information about Quinn’s final moments was withheld by the paramedic who treated her, including a monitor reading showing heart activity.
A second inquest in October 2020 into her death heard a paramedic who arrived shortly after she was found hanged near her home in Shildon told officers she was dead and that CPR should be stopped.
The North East Ambulance Service was found to have altered a key witness statement given to the coroner during its first inquest in April 2019, omitting references to errors made by the paramedic, including failing to not clear his airway, and adding claims that life support would ‘have had no positive outcome’.
Responding to the whistleblower’s claims as reported in The Sunday Times, Tracey said: ‘You wonder what else is out there. I think there needs to be a full investigation.
Quinn died on the evening of December 9, 2018, and the tragedy escalated ten months later when her 21-year-old son Dyllon, Tracey’s only other child, committed suicide while at college in Manchester.
She said: “We didn’t do enough for Quinn and then they tried to hide the fact that we didn’t do enough.
“We would have been devastated to find out straight away, but finding out months and years later what really happened only added to our pain and grief.
“Dyllon had read the reports a few days before he took his own life. He said the things he read haunted him. How could people who are supposed to protect and care for her little sister treat her this way and lie about it?
“Dyllon took his own life a few days later and I hold the North East Ambulance Service partially responsible for that.”
NEAS did not accept responsibility for Quinn’s death, but Tracey said the service had donated £3,000 to the charity Quinn’s Retreat, which Tracey set up with her husband, David, to support further others bereaved by suicide.
Last year Tracey won an Unsung Hero award at the County Durham Together Awards, organized by The Northern Echo in association with Durham County Council.
She said: ‘We never got an apology from them. After the second investigation, they came to the family room and said, “We’re sorry about what happened to your daughter.
“But that was no excuse for what they did and what the first responder didn’t do for Quinn.”
The Sunday Times said an internal report from 2020 showed senior executives had repeatedly withheld key evidence from coroners about deaths linked to service failures.
The whistleblower told the newspaper that although the report was shared with the ambulance trust’s chief executive and senior staff, NEAS failed to resolve the issue.
The source is quoted as saying: ‘The trust has been so keen to protect its own image, to ensure that the reputation of the ambulance service is not tarnished in the area.
“They put that before everything else – even before the bereaved families.”
The Sunday Times reported that two whistleblowers were asked to sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) to prevent them from making any further reports about their concerns to authorities.
The service said it would not discuss the content or confirm the existence of any specific agreements between NEAS and former employees.
North East Ambulance Service medical director Dr Mathew Beattie said: “If the trust enters into a settlement agreement, however, in order to settle any claims in the industrial tribunal, we are not seeking to prevent employees from make appropriate disclosures to raise concerns.
“We are following guidance on these matters which has been issued by NHS employers.”
Helen Ray, chief executive of the North East Ambulance Service, said the organization had recognized there were historical failings and had listened and acted on concerns raised by staff about the ‘quality and timeliness’ of documents disclosed to coroners.
She said: “Families are first and foremost in our minds and we unreservedly apologize for the distress we have caused them.
“When I first started working I was alerted to the very sad case of Quinn Evie Milburn and upon reviewing this case it was apparent that we had gaps in our processes.
“A whistleblower has also raised concerns and it’s always the right thing to do as we want to be as transparent as possible.
“We listened to the concerns raised, accepted their grievance and acted.”
Northumbria Police said concerns were raised with them and although no action was taken the matter was referred to the coroner’s office.
Ann Ford, CQC’s Northern Network Operations Manager, said: ‘We have requested additional information from the trust which has been assessed and has shown that improvements to their corona reporting systems remain in place and there is no There was no indication of a patient safety risk.
“The services provided by North East Ambulance Service Trust are subject to continuous monitoring and where we receive information suggesting a risk to patients or staff, we will always follow up to ensure people receive safe care.”
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