Under fire Yorkshire ambulance trust is due for inspection amid union ‘gagging’ claims

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A health watchdog will start an inspection of the region’s ambulance service today, hours after unions accused the trust of banning staff from voicing safety concerns.

A planned review of Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust (YAS) will be undertaken by the Care Quality Commission from today, examining emergency operations centres, paramedics and work with partners such as the police and fire service.

The move comes amid an ongoing dispute with Unite the union, which saw dozens of protesters gather outside a YAS forum meeting in Leeds, yesterday. It followed a similar demo outside York Hospital last week.

Unite officials voiced claims outside the forum, which is made up of elected public, staff and appointed persons to add transparency to the YAS, that staff are being stopped from voicing concerns and that the service’s response figures may be being manipulated to cover up its failures.

Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “Paramedics who have warned of patients’ lives potentially being put at risk by decisions made at the top of the Yorkshire Ambulance Service have been targeted and gagged. Senior management of the service have refused to disclose their full business plans because what it contains will cause public fury.”

Unite is opposing YAS’s bid to become a foundation trust, which it claims will reward senior managers. Ms Cartmail added: “The catalogue of failure is staggering and YAS cannot be rewarded with more powers.”

The union has also been critical of the trust’s use of emergency care assistants alongside senior paramedics.

YAS serves around five million people within the 6,000sqm it covers, and has been tasked with finding £10m of financial savings this year.

It emerged that the trust was failing to meet national targets of attending 75 per cent of the most serious emergency calls within eight minutes in November. Chief executive David Whiting resigned in the same month.

Ian Brandwood, executive director of people and engagement at YAS, said: “We strongly refute the misleading claims of Unite the union, which represents only eight per cent of our workforce. We have a comprehensive whistleblowing policy in place and encourage staff to use that avenue in absolute confidence. We do not silence our staff.

“Allegations relating to the accuracy of our call coding and accounts, which are both regularly audited, are also wholly false. In July 2013, the Care Quality Commission carried out a complete audit of call performance and concluded it was exemplary.”