Paramedics face cover-up inquiry over disaster

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The Yorkshire Ambulance Service has been referred to an independent watchdog over concerns that serving paramedics may have been involved in the 1989 Hillsborough cover-up.

The Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) has launched an investigation into whether any current paramedics were culpable over the Hillsborough scandal after Ministers asked the watchdog to step in last week.

Yorkshire Ambulance Service said last night it has drawn up a list of 21 current employees who were working in South Yorkshire at the time of the stadium disaster, and promised to co-operate with any inquiries that take place.

The service has already been forced to apologise after the independent panel’s report revealed massive operational failings in the way crews dealt with the disaster, concluding that almost half the 96 victims might have been saved with better medical care.

Disturbingly, the report also found that medics changed their official statements in the wake of the disaster and gave statements to the media about drunken and violent fans, leading to concerns they too were involved in the establishment cover-up.

Speaking in the Hillsborough debate on Monday night, Home Secretary Theresa May said that “given the panel’s findings in relation to the alteration of statements”, Whitehall officials have asked the HCPC “to consider whether any actions taken by currently serving ambulance staff might merit further investigation”.

A spokeswoman for the watchdog said yesterday: “The HCPC is aware of the Hillsborough report, and is currently working to identify if any paramedics were involved. The HCPC will be making contact with the relevant authorities, and will take any necessary action as appropriate.”

Steve Rotheram, a Liverpool MP and a former Lord Mayor of the city, described the changing of statements at the ambulance service as “despicable”.

He said: “We always knew that the police were involved, but the ambulance service was at it too.”

On Monday Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt apologised on behalf of the NHS to the families of those who died, but insisted the modern ambulance service bears little relation to the one which failed so badly at Hillsborough.

“I am deeply sorry for the part that the NHS played in their grief, both at the time and in any attempt to conceal those failings in the 23 years since,” he said.

He went on: “The ambulance service in South Yorkshire and across the country is very different today from how it was in 1989.”

In 1989, he said, ambulance services were “predominantly about first aid and transporting people to hospital”, with only 10 per cent of crews being qualified paramedics.

“Today, the service is characterised by a highly skilled and qualified workforce,” he said.

MPs were told the ambulance service is just one of a string of different organisations potentially facing charges over Hillsborough.

Mr Hunt confirmed the football authorities are among the organisations being investigated by prosecutors as they assess whether charges such as corporate manslaughter should follow.

Mr Rotheram said: “The Director of Public Prosecutions is looking at whether manslaughter charges can be brought against South Yorkshire Police, Sheffield Wednesday FC, the FA, Eastwood – the engineering company – and Sheffield Council.”

Mrs May said she plans to publish soon a full list of organisations which may have been culpable.