Calls have been made for an urgent review of protocol after it was revealed that the Berwick ambulance crew was not contacted as a teenager lay dying in the town.
It took 26 minutes for an ambulance to reach Kyle Lowes after the scooter he was riding collided with a car on North Road at the junction with Magdalene Drive on January 30. Tragically, Kyle was pronounced dead at the scene.
It has since emerged that an ambulance was on standby in Berwick at the time, but that the crew there were not contacted immediately as they were on a scheduled break.
The ambulance service received a call at 10.02pm and its community paramedic from Wooler was first on the scene at 10.25pm, with the ambulance from Berwick arriving three minutes later.
Paramedics administered CPR for 20 minutes but to no avail.
A spokeswoman for the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) said: “Our crews are required to work 12 hour shifts and as part of the European Working Times Directive, and as a responsible employer, we have to require them to take rest periods.
“At such times the crews are stood down and are not part of the planned response available for incidents.
“On this occasion the crew were in Berwick and were contacted by their colleague who was responding to this incident. They were asked if they could attend and responded immediately once informed.”
Following meetings with NEAS chiefs last week, Conservative parliamentary candidate for Berwick Anne-Marie Trevelyan has called for an urgent review of the protocol, which was negotiated as part of the Agenda for Change agreement in 2004.
Mrs Trevelyan said: “I am extremely concerned for the welfare of our wonderful paramedic team in Berwick who I know have been deeply affected by the recent tragic death of a young man. It is very important that we support them too and ensure they know how much we value their skills, commitment and dedication to community safety.”
She added: “As part of those union negotiations in 2004, it was agreed that in a 12-hour shift paramedics would be entitled to at least one 45 minute break, which would be ‘unpaid and undisturbed’.
“It is quite right that paramedics, who work under enormous pressures, get assured downtime.
“However, it cannot be right that there are no options in a situation where an ambulance and paramedic team are available to attend the scene of a serious accident in a few minutes but the call is not put through because of Union stipulation about designated breaks.”
Mrs Trevelyan has now written to the regional Unison and GMB Unions asking for them to meet with her in Berwick and to discuss reviewing this protocol for life saving calls.
County Councillor Scott Dickinson, chair of the Northumberland Health and Wellbeing Board, will also meet with the chairman and chief executive of the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) at the end of March to discuss the late response to the recent fatal crash, plus wider concerns raised about limited ambulance cover in the Berwick area.
Meanwhile, a petition set up by a Berwick teenager who helped Kyle, seeking improved ambulance cover in Berwick, has attracted over 4,000 signatures.