Leeds council watchdog panel to investigate ambulance service row

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A LEEDS council watchdog panel is to investigate allegations made by Yorkshire ambulance workers following a long-running row with management.

Members of Leeds City Council’s Health and Wellbeing and Adult Social Care Scrutiny Board are to hold a special meeting next month to discuss the claims by members of Unite.

The union has been embroiled in a long-running dispute with Yorkshire Ambulance Service (YAS) and members have staged a series of strikes.

Now the Unite general secretary Len McClusky has called on council leaders to intervene.

He wrote to the leader of the council Keith Wakefield and chief executive Tom Riordan saying there was a “potential risk to patients” of Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust.

Mr McClusky said paramedic members of Unite had exposed failures to meet national targets, proposed cuts to the ambulance fleet and alleged manipulation of call-out data.

He also accused ambulance bosses of “attempting to gag” the union and requested an urgent meeting.

The letter was passed to the Health Scrutiny Board, which also considered a response from YAS interim chief executive Rod Barnes.

He said the allegation that call-out data was being manipulated was “wholly false” and the Service were increasing numbers of frontline paramedics.

Mr Barnes added that the dispute followed the decision by YAS to derecognise YAS last year, and stressed that only eight per cent of workers were members of Unite. He added: “I would like to reassure you that, despite Unite’s assertions, patients are not being put at risk by YAS.”

At the scrutiny board meeting, councillors said they wanted more specific information from the union and from ambulance managers.

Chair Coun Debra Coupar (Lab, Cross Gates and Whinmoor) said it was not the board’s role to get involved in a conflict between the union and management, but to look at the impact on the service.

However she added: “Some serious matters are raised that need to be looked at. We’ve had the YAS board here discussing other issues and no mention of this was made.”

Councillors agreed to hold an extra meeting in January to consider the claims.