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A paramedic “completely lost it” and swiped the keys to another crew’s ambulance, leaving it stuck outside a children’s hospital’s A&E.
Ronald Barnes-Brown’s over the top reaction meant the vehicle had to be towed away and was off the road until it was re-fitted with new locks and a new ignition.
A 10-year veteran of the ambulance service with an “exemplary record”, Barnes-Brown was in full view of CCTV cameras and was quickly identified.
He later told his bosses and union reps he had “completely lost it” and “could not explain his behaviour” during the incident at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, Liverpool, on October 26, 2019, reports The Liverpool Echo.
A judgement published by the Health and Care Professions Tribunal Service (HCPTS) this week revealed Barnes-Brown has since left the NHS, but he was struck off from the register, meaning he will no longer be able to work as a paramedic.
The panel heard that, during their shift that night, Barnes-Brown and a junior colleague, referred to as “EP”, were on duty and had been called to take a mother and baby to hospital.
They parked outside Alder Hey next to another ambulance, which was crewed by paramedics referred to as “DP” and “MM”.
During the NWAS investigation, Barnes-Brown gave his explanation as to what happened, saying: “We got out [of the ambulance] and went to the [hospital] door and pressed the buzzer.
“The man near the door [MM] said ‘it’s changed you don’t come in this way anymore’. I blanked them and we went in the usual way as we had just been in that way before.
“As we walked in, the nurse said ‘it has all changed you don’t come in this way’. We said ‘if you’re going to change something can you let us know?’
“The paramedic on the other vehicle said to EP, ‘I’ll show you where to go’. The man next to the door said ‘I told you so’.
“I felt myself rising but I had a patient with me. I thought I’d go back and speak to him after.
“We went in the back way to get more blankets and he was standing there.
“I said ‘I’m not being funny with you’ but he blanked me and I was fuming, I couldn’t control myself.”
Barnes-Brown described taking the keys, driving away in his own ambulance and throwing them out of the window as he drove.
He added: “I buried it in my head. I knew what was coming.”
The panel head that, when DP and MM realised the keys were missing, Barnes’-Brown was asked over the radio whether he had taken them, which he denied.
A spare key could not be found and the vehicle had to be loaded onto a recovery vehicle and taken to a garage.
At the end of his shift, Barnes-Brown was questioned again by his managers, and continued to deny he had taken the keys.
However by this time the CCTV had been reviewed and he was suspended from duty.
A few days later, on October 29, Barnes-Brown admitted stealing the keys and referred himself to regulatory body the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).
In that referral he wrote: “I cannot explain my behaviour; it is totally out of character after 10 years of exemplary service.”
The referral referred to trauma relating to his experiences on the job, and he added: “I am so ashamed, embarrassed and may lose my job, my career in the job I love.
“I think there is a culmination of events which I now know I have not dealt with and unfortunately these manifested on a simple turn of words with the other crew.”
The panel heard Barnes-Brown later backtracked on parts of his account, suggesting that although he took the keys it was in fact his colleague, EP, who had thrown them away.
He also told the HCPC he had “left the medical industrial complex and have another career so the outcome of this hearing is meaningless to me”.
The disciplinary panel wrote it accepted that Barnes-Brown was “experienced, knowledgeable and well-liked by patients and colleagues” and had suffered due to trauma caused by his experiences on the job.
However, they also suggested he “had a duty to inform his employer if he was unfit to work and to seek medical help.”
The Panel described the fact that he blamed his junior colleague for throwing the keys away to be “malicious and frivolous in the context of an extremely serious lapse of professional judgement on his part”.
It concluded: “The Registrant was clearly a good Paramedic.
“It is therefore with regret that the Panel has determined that even the maximum period of suspension would be insufficient to mark the Registrant’s serious misconduct.
“With regard to the wider public interest, the public must be assured that Paramedics act with integrity, at all times putting service users first.
“A blasé attitude to public safety and the regulatory process is totally unacceptable, particularly when working in emergencies often in life and death situations.
“The Panel is satisfied that the only appropriate and proportionate response to protect the public and the wider public interest in these circumstances is to make a Striking-Off Order.”
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