[This account is Eddie Daly’s story, told from his perspective. As such, it is important to recognise that it is not entirely without bias. The perspective of London Ambulance Service executive officers are discussed in this article, to which the events detailed in this account will give context.]
Edmund Daly was a career paramedic who stood as one of the finest examples of his profession for nearly three decades. Until 2013, when London Ambulance Service saw fit to dismiss him for ‘gross misconduct’ after he reportedly refused to attend a 999 call at the end of a busy shift.
The decision, and Eddie’s treatment by the ambulance establishment both before and after his dismissal, is viewed by many as a travesty.
I met Eddie on 24th April 2015, to see how he was coping with life after the ambulance service and to get his version of events. I found him to be a mild-mannered and softly spoken man who is still proud of his career, but deeply saddened by its end.
He started working for London Ambulance Service in 1984 and due to his care, empathy and diligence soon became widely respected and admired by his colleagues and the patients he treated. Unsurprisingly, his professionalism and attention detail saw him become one of the first generation of paramedics when the role was first introduced in the early 1990s.
|Coverage of Eddie Daley’s A&E Person of the Year’ Award in 2005|
His natural aptitude as a role-model and mentor led to him becoming a team leader in 2001, which made him responsible for guiding and advising junior clinicians as they attended emergency calls together.
Eddie was recognised for his excellence in 2005 when he was awarded ‘A&E Person of the Year’ at the yearly London Ambulance Service awards, at which he was described as ‘a great ambassador for the Service for over 20 years and is more committed now than ever’.
But on 3rd July 2009, perhaps in part due to Eddie’s undiminished enthusiasm and willingness to help, his world darkened.
Lakanal House: ‘Six Killed in Tower Block Blaze’
|Lakanal House, Camberwell, 3rd July 2009|
A 999 call to a burning 14-storey tower block in Camberwell required ambulance officer attendance, but none were immediately available. Eddie offered his assistance and was despatched to attend. When he arrived, the London Fire Brigade was tackling fires spreading to several floors of Lakanal House. While Eddie was providing support on the ground in the absence of inbound ambulance officers, he was approached by a friend of Dayana Francisquini, who was on the telephone while trapped inside the burning building. Eddie took the phone and, while trying to reassure and advise the distraught woman on the line, trapped in Flat 81 with her two young children, he sought to inform commanding officers of their plight. By this time, an ambulance officer had arrived and taken control of ambulance co-ordination. Eddie reported to her, but felt he was chided for bringing unnecessary details when there was ‘already enough to deal with’. Nonetheless, the information had been passed on. Or so Eddie hoped.
Although 30 people were rescued from the blaze and 15 were taken to hospital for treatment, 26-year-old Dayana Francisquini, son Felipe (3) and daughter Thais (6) were overcome by fumes and died along with other Lakanal House residents, Helen Udoaka (34), her three-week-old baby Michelle, and 31-year-old Catherine Hickman.
Eddie was devastated. He began to question his decisions and was angry at his commanding officer. Over the next few months, as he continued to work he became tormented by the events at Lakanal House and his part in it. Work colleagues noticed a change in his demeanour, he became more withdrawn and solitary. Eventually, some six months after Lakanal, he decided he had had enough, telling his line manager, ‘I can’t do this, I’m leaving.’
Eddie was persuaded instead to take some time off and to seek counselling and treatment, which he did. He returned to work some time later and managed to get back into the swing of things. He felt things were returning to normal and was once again able to cope with the demands of his paramedic duties.
A Nightmare Revisited
But in November 2012, preparation for a public inquest into the Lakanal House incident required Eddie to turn his mind to those harrowing events once again. Returning to the scene of the fire and providing input for the upcoming inquest triggered Eddie’s torment again. He began once again to suffer bad dreams and sleepless nights.
By Spring 2013, Eddie was suffering from gastro-intestinal problems, which caused him further discomfort and anguish. Early investigation led to the need to rule out bowel cancer, but later that year, the problem would be diagnosed as severe diverticular disease.
Despite mounting health problems, Eddie was still a professional, passionate about his job, and continued to give the public and his colleagues his best. Indeed, as a single man living alone, the rewarding aspects of patient care and his interaction with his colleagues were of critical importance to his coping mechanisms and his motivation, especially while dealing with physical and mental illness. It is to his credit that he was still able to function ably.
But by now, he had begun to understand his limits. With eroded health due to his job and the continuing increase of an intolerable workload, his shifts were becoming more and more challenging. He did his best to endure.
As dedicated as he remained, on 29th May 2013 after more than 11 relentless hours of ambulance attendances without a break, he had reached a critical point. He was fatigued and his still undiagnosed abdominal illness was causing him further distress. He was concerned for his crewmate too, a young female paramedic who was also showing signs of stress and fatigue. As they prepared to head back to their nearby base station from their latest drop-off at hospital, an ‘amber’ 999 call to a 43-year-old woman ‘feeling faint, dizzy and vomiting’ was assigned to them. Eddie contacted the control room and contested the assignment, trying to explain that he felt that neither he nor his crewmate were fit to attend another call. He explained that he ‘didn’t feel right’ but was embarrassed to elaborate. In hindsight, he regrets that he wasn’t more clear.
His concerns fell on deaf ears. The dispatch manager said they had no other ambulances to send. But Eddie was insistent that they were unfit to endure yet another call. Although he never uttered the words ‘I refuse’, his concerns were documented as ‘a refusal to attend’ and Eddie doesn’t dispute this. After eventually being stood down from the call by dispatch, he and his crewmate returned to their base station. As she departed in another vehicle to her home station, Eddie made use of the facilities in an effort to address his growing discomfort. There was evidence of bleeding.
Some time later, beyond the end of his shift, Eddie visited the dispatch manager to discuss the earlier altercation and offer an explanation. His high standing with colleagues extended to dispatch staff and he describes his relationship with the duty manager that night as a positive one. He explained his position to her, pointing out his poor physical condition. The dispatch manager seemed satisfied with this, gently scolding him with a slap on the wrist and a ‘let that be the end of it’.
Sadly, it was far from the end of it.
The Institutionalised Response
|Kevin Brown (ADO)|
A few weeks later, following a meeting of managers on 23rd June 2013, the decision was taken by then Assistant Director of Operations (Acting) Kevin Brown, to suspend Eddie pending an investigation. The news was heartbreaking for Eddie and his torment was compounded by the LAS policy requiring him to have no contact with his colleagues while the investigation took place. As he continued to struggle with his demons, he found himself ostracised and alone.
His only permitted contact was his union representation and a management-appointed ‘staff liaison officer’, the latter with whom Eddie had no contact for the first 22 days of the investigation.
Eddie described a gruelling five-hour interview with the investigating officer, Maria Smith, who he felt had some sympathy for his circumstances but was powerless to do anything about it. He described a moment when her colleagues left the room and she appeared to want to say something but was unable, instead giving him a hug.
It wasn’t until August that the Staff Liaison Officer informed Eddie that the investigation had been concluded.
Eddie acquired a new GMB union representative, Josef Kane, to defend him and preparations began to clear Eddie’s name.
ADO Kevin Brown was initially expected to chair the subsequent misconduct hearing, but Mr. Kane and Eddie felt this was a conflict of interest due to Mr. Brown’s involvement in instigating the investigation. After significant delays, Director of Operations Jason Killens took the role. The hearing would not take place until 15th May 2014.
During preparations, it soon became clear that the investigation had been far from thorough, failing to take into account Eddie’s health concerns. Additionally, the transcripts of the communication between Eddie and dispatch on the night of the incident when finally released by LAS were incomplete, missing out key parts of the exchange which could prove that Eddie had explained he was unwell.
Pressure to provide the full recording finally bore fruit two days before the hearing, but that left no time to prepare. As a result of the delayed evidence, Mr. Kane advised Eddie to ask for a postponement of the hearing, which gave them a further week to review the new material.
Prior to the hearing, an exchange of emails between Eddie, Mr. Kane and the presiding officer, Jason Killens, saw the senior officer dismiss grievances raised at Eddie’s treatment throughout the investigation and a breach of confidentiality as ‘at best peripheral to the disciplinary hearing’. A reply from Mr. Kane challenged this, but Eddie became worried that it would provoke a less favourable outcome and withdrew the grievances without consulting Mr. Kane. This caused friction between Eddie and Mr. Kane, with the GMB rep explaining that withdrawing the grievances would undermine Eddie’s case as in so doing, the points could not be considered later as a point of appeal. So Eddie, feeling that he had little choice, contacted Mr. Killens and reinstated the grievance email.
A Fair Hearing?
|Jason Killens (Director of Operations)|
On the day of the hearing on 29th May 2014, it soon became clear that it was going to be a whitewash, despite Eddie having a number of warm written testimonies from high level officers and the defence’s misgivings about Eddie’s treatment at the hands of his employer.
The grievances as detailed in the email were not heard, with Mr. Killens stating that they had no bearing on the allegations of the case.
The investigating officer, Maria Smith, was known to be unavailable to appear at the hearing (which had apparently been the case for previous hearing dates too), something which Eddie’s representation protested about. Instead, it was claimed that Keith Miller was the report author and investigating officer, despite documentation proving otherwise. Mr. Miller, when questioned on elements of the investigation documentation, was repeatedly only able to reply ‘I don’t know, I didn’t conduct the investigation’. The investigation findings were accepted by Mr. Killens as is, without scrutiny.
The transcript evidence of Eddie’s explanation that he couldn’t continue to work that night because he was unwell was dismissed after focusing on his use of the phrase ‘I don’t feel right’ (also reported as ‘I don’t feel this is right’, adding to the controversy). Eddie explained later that he was embarrassed to discuss the details of his ailment over the phone and pointed out that his choice of wording is perhaps also partly due to his natural language patterns and his fatigue. He is, however, documented as having said ‘you can make us patients too because right now I am tired’ and ‘I think this is dangerous and unreasonable’.
It seemed reasonable to the defence that, with so many procedural anomalies regarding various statements which were inappropriately withheld – and especially with a key investigating officer being unavailable (it has been suggested that her absence may have helped to disregard any shortfalls in the investigation) – that the case would be thrown out, the charge be lessened due to mitigating circumstances, or at least found to be requiring further consideration at a later date when the investigating officer was available.
Despite the host of reasons for a more favourable result, they were dismissed as not relevant and the charge of ‘gross misconduct’ was railroaded through, much to Eddie and Mr. Kane’s surprise and dismay.
Eddie had nothing left but the chance of appeal and with the management showing an apparent hunger for the most severe punishment, he held little hope.
Ignoring a Precedent: One Rule for One…
Eddie’s torment continued until his appeal on 26th August 2014, at which Jason Killens presented the management’s case to the appeal panel.
During this hearing, the precedent set by another case of a paramedic failing to attend a 999 call was brought up as a defence. The incident which took place in late 2012 involved a paramedic manager (DSO) who was on a routine Health & Safety inspection travelling from Waterloo HQ to Bloomsbury station with an EMT passenger who was also a Health & Safety representative for the complex [LAS area subdivision]. An emergency call to a patient fitting in a public place was sent to them as they were the nearest resource. The manager refused the call despite his passenger allegedly reporting that they could see the incident from their location. The passenger expressed concern, identifying that ‘I’d be sacked for doing that’ to which the response was allegedly ‘that’s the fun of being a manager.’
The incident was reported, but no overt action was taken by London Ambulance Service and a subsequent third-party report to the Health & Care Professions Council regulatory body resulted in the officer being given a ‘reflective practise’ verdict, meaning he could continue in his role.
On hearing this evidence being brought up in Eddie Daly’s appeal, Mr. Killens reportedly ‘hit the roof’, expressing a desire for disciplinary action against the Health & Safety EMT who had divulged the information, claiming ‘we’re going to have to sort him out’ and ‘I’m going to see what weight I can bear on this’. The precedent set by the case was not considered in Eddie Daly’s appeal and what weight was brought to bear by Mr. Killens on the whistleblower is unknown at this time.
Evidence was produced that showed the initial investigation was conducted with a clear bias toward proving that Eddie Daly ‘just wanted to get off on time’ despite the fact that Eddie had remained on station long after his shift had finished. No regard toward his health and welfare was given.
The decision to dismiss Edmund Daly for ‘gross misconduct’ was upheld.
What Price Justice?
Eddie Daly considered taking his case to industrial tribunal. Frustratingly, his union was unwilling to take the case on as they ‘couldn’t be sure of LAS’s reasoning’ and so he was forced to spend £6,000 on independent legal advice. There is only a three month window in which industrial tribunal proceedings can be instigated and at the eleventh hour, the legal representation Eddie had engaged advised him that his was a ‘50/50’ case and would cost a further £34,000 with no guarantee he would get his money back even if he did win. He felt he had no choice but to abandon any attempt to proceed.
Edmund Daly’s 30-year career as a decorated London Ambulance paramedic was over. He had been forced out of the job he loved for reasons that he could not understand. To this day he still doesn’t.
Eddie himself reported his case to the HCPC and in April 2015 it held a hearing. He did not attend, the burden of the endless litigation weighed heavily on him and couldn’t face any more. The HCPC found him to have ‘seriously undermine[d] public confidence in the profession’ and suspended his paramedic licence for a year. Eddie’s lack of comprehension was documented as ‘not demonstrat[ing] any remorse’.
Today, Eddie continues to struggle with PTSD, he is still haunted by events from his career and saddened by his treatment at the hands of the organisation that was part of his life for so long. He is reported as being ‘fragile’ by friends, but is focused on putting his ambulance career behind him and has recently retrained as a care assistant.
Despite no-one being able to help him, he’s still trying to help others.