Body 'left near bins' in Ely claim prompts ambulance apology

Ely ambulance station
Image caption It is alleged a body was left unattended at Ely ambulance station in September

An ambulance service has apologised after claims crew members left a body lying unattended next to bins at a station when their shift finished.

The body is believed to be that of James Harrison, 32, who was found in Ponts Hill in Littleport, Cambridgeshire on 24 September.

The alleged incident involved the East of England Ambulance Service in Ely.

Chief executive Anthony Marsh said the trust was "very sorry for what happened".

Although the service apologised, it refused to confirm the claims or say exactly what it was apologising for.

However, Dr Marsh said the ambulance service had begun a "thorough investigation" and was "working with the family and everyone who responded to the patient".

Image caption Anthony Marsh apologised over the incident involving a "deceased patient" but declined to give details

The body of Mr Harrison, of Hardwicke Close in Littleport was found in the street near the town's fire station at about 05:00 BST.

Following a post-mortem examination, Cambridgeshire Police confirmed his death was not being treated as suspicious and the case was passed to the coroner.

A full inquest will resume on 14 January.

The Ely Standard first reported claims the body was left near bins after being contacted by a "whistleblower".

Mr Harrison's mother Diane told the BBC she did not wish to comment on the claims.

An ambulance service spokesman confirmed its investigation involved "the transportation of a deceased patient", but said he could not comment further as inquiries were ongoing.

Image caption The body of James Harrison was found in the street in Littleport on 24 September

The East of England Ambulance Service Trust has come in for criticism in the past for poor response times and in August was fined £1.2m for failing to meet some of its targets.

'Completely unacceptable'

Its chief executive's salary and expenses claims have also recently come under the spotlight.

Sir Graham Bright, the police and crime commissioner for Cambridgeshire said the latest incident involving transporting the man's body "sounds a fairly disgraceful thing to have happened".

"Obviously it's got to be investigated and whoever is responsible for that has got to be held to account," he said.

Timeline of events

  • 24 September: At 05:00 BST the body of James Harrison, 32, is discovered in the street at Ponts Hill in Littleport
  • 15 October: The Ely Standard publishes a "whistleblower's" claims his body was left unattended near bins by a crew at the end of their shift
  • 15 October: The article includes a statement from the EEAST confirming an incident involving "the transportation of a deceased patient" is under investigation
  • 16 October: EEAST's chief executive Dr Anthony Marsh apologises "for what happened", however, the service refuses to say exactly what it is apologising for, or confirm a body was left unattended

The Conservative MP for North East Cambridgeshire, Stephen Barclay, said he was "deeply concerned" by the claims.

"It's obviously distressing to hear that a deceased person's been treated in this way," he said.

"I very much welcome the apology from the ambulance service trust but we do need to get to the bottom of whether this was an isolated incident, or whether there have been other occasions where bodies have been treated in this completely unacceptable way."

Image caption MP Stephen Barclay called the alleged incident "completely unacceptable"

Correction: This story has been amended to remove reference to the length of time the body was left. The BBC has been unable to verify the exact timeframe.

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