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Reporter's wrangle with ambulance service over incitement accusation

A health correspondent has been accused of inciting gross misconduct among paramedics and ambulance staff by posting comments on a public internet forum.

Richard Hartley-Parkinson, from the Bucks Herald, wrote a story about discontent at South Central Ambulance Service after receiving an anonymous e-mail from someone claiming to be a paramedic.

In it, the paramedic said that lives were being put at risk by the service because of low morale and outdated and unclean ambulances which serve Buckinghamshire.

After the story was published Richard then posted comments and his contact details on the SCAS public internet forum, requesting views from any other staff, both disgruntled and those in support of the service.

Richard told holdthefrontpage: “I started getting responses from other paramedics who feared repercussions (for the public).

“But the PR manager at SCAS got in touch with my editor, saying my practices were underhand and encouraged gross misconduct (for speaking to the press).

“Then the Oxford Mail put a message up saying get in touch with them. Both of them were taken down.

“I think it’s quite a big issue that they removed comments from a public website.

“I was supposed to be going out at night with an ambulance but at the last minute they pulled out. The PR office said it could not go ahead because they were unsure of my motives.”

Just after the first story was published in the Bucks Herald, Richard was invited to a press briefing along with the Oxford Mail and Milton Keynes Citizen whose patches also take in SCAS.

Richard said because the briefing was held in Aylesbury the other two papers couldn’t send anyone. He and a colleague filming the briefing were faced with six senior staff including the director of corporate affairs, PR manager and union officials.

Richard explained: “The press briefing was to discuss the set up of the ambulance service and give SCAS an opportunity for right to reply.

“But when the cameraman started setting up they said ‘no’.

“During the course of the meeting, which was three hours long, my article was ripped to shreds.

“I had to defend everything that I had said. At one point the director said they would consider going for an injunction against me printing anything.

“Whenever I raised a concern about what the technicians were saying to me they scoffed at the things I was saying. It was intimidating.

“I can understand the concerns with regards to staff bullying. They even questioned my authority to keep my contacts confidential even though I hadn’t named anyone.”

Richard has refused to quieten down as in the latest edition of the Herald he carries four separate stories and a comment piece about the ongoing saga.

No one from the South Central Ambulance Service was available for comment.

  • Richard’s leader piece