A stroke patient has died after an ambulance driver allegedly refused to work beyond his shift and clocked off part-way through a 999 journey.
By Nigel Bunyan
Published: 4:57PM BST 07 Jun 2009
The driver was 15 minutes over time when he diverted to his depot instead of carrying on direct to the hospital.
The patient deteriorated during the drive and died of a suspected heart attack soon after arriving at North Tees hospital's accident and emergency unit.
Both the driver and the medic travelling with him have now been suspended as officials at the North East Ambulance Services investigate the delay on May 18.
His replacement took the patient on to hospital, but the detour had added half a mile and four minutes to the journey.
The patient was named as 69-year-old Ali Asghar, a father of four, from Stockton on Tees, Cleveland.
Mr Asghar's youngest son, Mohammed, 33, said he was not aware of the delay in the ambulance arriving at hospital but told the Daily Mail: "If that has happened it shouldn't have.
"If you have a patient in an ambulance you don't worry about your bloody shift finishing.
"The driver should not get away with it. He should have to pay for it. He is responsible for the death.
"The time he took to detour could have saved my father's life."
An NHS source said that if the case against the driver was proven his actions had been "absolutely abhorrent".
"Paramedics pride themselves on the public being able to feel they are in the best hands when they are called out to an emergency.
"If this person wanted a nine to five job he should not have become a paramedic."
The source added: "A couple of miniutes in a life or death situation is a very long time. Skimming off just a few seconds from an emergency call-out can save lives - that's why amublances are fitted with blue lights and sirens."
A spokesman for North East Ambulance Service said: "This incident was immediately reported to us by another member of staff and, as soon as we were notified, we acted to suspend a paramedic and an advanced technician from duty.
"We appointed a senior officer to carry out a full investigation of the incident and have notified the North East Strategic Health Authority, Stockton-on-Tees Teaching Primary Care Trust and the Health Professions Council of our actions.
"We have also been in touch with the family of the patient to give them our condolences and to keep them updated on developments.
"Patient care is our number one priority and we treat any action which falls short of the high standard expected of our staff extremely seriously."
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