North East Ambulance Service paramedics gave 75 doses of out-of-date drugs

Ambulance chiefs referred their organisation to an independent health regulator after paramedics administered out-of-date drugs\n

Rui Vieira/PA Wire Ambulance outside the entrance to an Accident and Emergency department
Ambulance outside the entrance to an Accident and Emergency department

Bosses at the North East Ambulance Service referred their organisation to an independent health regulator after discovering paramedics had given patients out-of-date drugs.

Concerns were raised when it was established that a total of 75 doses of out-of-date medication had been given by 26 paramedics.

The matter was referred to the Care Quality Commission (CQC) who immediately looked into the incident and was reassured that correct actions had been taken to mitigate the risks.

Medicines administered included two forms of morphine and a type of diazepam. Ambulance chiefs have insisted that no patients were harmed by receiving the products.

A North East Ambulance Service spokesperson said: “During a routine audit by NEAS, a number of out-of-date controlled drugs were found to have been administered to patients.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 No patients were put at risk due to the drugs being out-of-date.

“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.”

Out-of-date medicines can mean that the treatment is not safe or may lose some or all of their effectiveness.

A CQC spokesperson said: “We can confirm we were alerted to this matter by the North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust in April. We asked the trust 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.”

Earlier this year, a CQC launched an urgent review into NEAS after a report found more than 125 frontline staff were not screened for criminal convictions.

At the time, NEAS confirmed checks carried out since the CQC inspection revealed 57 members had minor criminal convictions.

The unannounced inspection in February also found there were “shortfalls in human resource governance, complaint management and medication audits”.

But a spokesman for NEAS said inspectors had praised “staff for their professionalism and respect of patients’ privacy, dignity and independence”.

Meanwhile, GP health commissioners in County Durham have proposed to change the way ambulance services are delivered with the aim of improving critical emergency response times.

Durham Dales, Easington and Sedgefield Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) plans to bring in an extra rapid response vehicle to serve the Durham Dales as part of measures to increase investment in the area.

Plans include that ambulances in Durham Dales will be staffed by one instead of two paramedics, accompanied by an emergency care assistant. The aim is to allow a second paramedic to crew more vehicles across the area.

Proposals also focus on protecting the current ring-fenced investment of £650,000 per annum in the Durham Dales for the next two years, and bringing up the level of ambulance crew deployment in line with the rest of the North East.

The national standard for the most time critical emergencies is that an ambulance should attend within eight minutes, in 75% of cases, across the North East area. Dr Jonathan Nainby-Luxmoore, a GP at Old Forge Surgery in Middleton-in-Teesdale said: “Our CCG is committed to investing in ambulance services and seeing a marked improvement in the services we commission on behalf of our local populations.

“With these proposals, we believe that we can be specific about the improvements to the service that will benefit the entire population by making best use of the resources available to us and ensuring a clinically safe and equitable service across Durham Dales, Easington and Sedgefield.

“It’s vital that local people have their say on the proposals and I would urge them to attend one of the public engagement events so their voice is heard.”


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