Patient details left on private ambulance dashboard in Thetford

Stock image of an ambulance. Byline: Sonya Duncan Copyright: Archant 2016

Stock image of an ambulance. Byline: Sonya Duncan Copyright: Archant 2016 - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Private ambulance crews have been accused of leaving the personal details of a patient on show on a vehicle's dashboard while parked up at a Thetford pub.

Bell Inn in Thetford. Photo: Sonya Duncan

Bell Inn in Thetford. Photo: Sonya Duncan - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2011

It happened outside The Bell Inn, where crews from UK Specialist Ambulance Service, a private provider used by the East of England Ambulance Trust (EEAST), stay after their shifts.

But the Mirror reported a passer-by complained after spotting what appeared to be an electrocardiogram left on the dashboard, and crews in uniform drinking inside.

An NHS paramedic told the Mirror: 'That strip of paper is likely to contain identifiable information such as name and a date of birth. It could be linked to an individual and needs to be kept private.

'It's appalling. Public money is going to a private firm making a profit, which decides to run ambulances out of a pub.

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'That money should be used to recruit and train our own staff.'

Six of the company's vehicles park at The Bell when the crews are not working, as UK Specialist Ambulance Service is based in Rainham, east London.

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But another EEAST insider told the Mirror: ''There was a complaint of people in uniform ­walking about in the bar laughing, joking, drinking beer.

'We're assuming they'd be at the end of their shift, but it gives the wrong ­impression. The main worry is the ­paperwork visible in a pub car park. Local staff are horrified. The trust is becoming the Arthur Daley of the ambulance service – it's not good for morale.'

The Bell's manager Marlon Sherman said: 'It's not been turned into an ­ambulance station or taking 999 calls. We offered the ambulance service ­somewhere to stay for rest periods. They're here seven days on a shift ­pattern. They sleep here as residents.'

An EEAST spokesman said: 'We take data protection matters very seriously. We'll meet with this provider to discuss these concerns.'

Previously the trust said it used private ambulances to cope with spikes in demand, such as during the winter.

A past statement said: 'Recruiting trained staff, particularly registered paramedics, is extremely challenging and whilst we continue to recruit and train a significant number of patient facing staff we continue to use private ambulance services so that we can respond to patients as quickly as possible and give them the best possible service.'

A UK Specialist Ambulance Service spokesman added: 'Crews stay overnight to have proper rest periods. The unacceptable alternative would mean a 200-mile, three-hour round trip.'

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