At least ten ambulance workers from the South East Coast Ambulance Service Trust in Guildford, Surrey, UK are under investigation for deliberately tampering with ambulance trackers, so they could disappear for up to three hours at a time. Some patients ended up in life-threatening situations as control room staff were left scrambling to find other ambulances to attend to them.

Clinical operation manager at the trust, Andrew Patterson said, “There are a number of members of staff who are tampering with MDT [mobile data terminal] devices.”

“It started with one particular employee, and then all the people who worked with that employee were investigated,” he stated.

Gross medical malpractice almost cost a life

A dispatch team leader from the trust said the case was one in a “long line of incidents” in which paramedics had tampered with the devices.

Tampering with the MDT disrupts the Automatic Vehicle Location record creating a gaping hole in the hospital's tracking system.

On 3 May 2014, a patient was in a life-threatening situation, but had to be attended by an ambulance three miles away because Hudghton’s ambulance location could not be detected at the relevant time. It became apparent in the control room that misconduct had arisen.

One paramedic, Carl Hudghton, who claimed he switched off the tracker because he had a stomachache admitted that his actions could have had “catastrophic” consequences for patients.

“Throughout my career paramedics have not always been given the opportunity to take a break. I felt if I had phoned and asked to take a break, then been refused, it would have made things worse – I felt I had to continue,” he said. The current NHS crisis has left many healthcare professionals struggling.

Hudghton, who has since left the Guildford Ambulance Station, accepts all allegations but denies that he is unfit to practice.

Malpractice at the trust begins at the top

Unfortunately, this is just another in a line of gross medical malpractice scandals that have been recently unearthed at the trust. The head of the trust at the time, Paul Sutton, stepped down last year, following the exposure that he had personally authorised a secret operation, in which calls made using the non-emergency number (111), were deliberately delayed compared to calls made using the emergency number (999). At least 11 deaths have been linked to this rogue protocol.

Sutton was also among those found responsible for endemic bullying which led several emergency call handlers to attempt suicide. They claimed to be under so much pressure that they could not concentrate on emergency calls, impairing their responses to the public.

Sutton has said he refutes allegations concerning his personal conduct, which were “wholly unsubstantiated.”

Greg Foxsmith, a member of the Health and Care Professions Council said, "It is the duty of the emergency services to promote and protect the interests of service users and maintain high standards.”

“They must make sure behaviour doesn't damage the public's confidence in ambulance services," he added. MIMS

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