999 car used in booze cruise

TWO Essex ambulance service managers used a health trust car to go on a “booze cruise” to France, a disciplinary panel heard yesterday.

Roddy Ashworth

TWO Essex ambulance service managers used a health trust car to go on a “booze cruise” to France, a disciplinary panel heard yesterday.

Richard Lane and Paul Leaman had the Essex Ambulance Service crests removed from the vehicle and the back seats taken out to fit in more alcohol, it was claimed.

The trust then had to foot the bill for the alterations, the Health Professions Council was told.

Representing the HPC, Vicky Lord said: “They were engaged in what appeared to be a vacation across to France to bring back quantities of alcohol into the country using a trust vehicle.”

Trust employee Paul Holmes noticed the bill and blew the whistle.

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He said: “This vehicle had three rows of seats and, as there were only four people going, removing the back seats would have given them a lot more stowage for their alcohol.”

It is also claimed that Mr Lane and Mr Leaman colluded with a company called Alliance Trading and harassed other staff to use it as a supplier.

Richard Wilson, who worked in procurement, told the hearing he had been “hassled” to give the company business.

He said: “I never found them competitive.

“They were set up to do stationery and they got involved in other areas and I don't think on any occasion did they undercut or improve on anything that was in place.”

Mr Wilson added: “I felt a bit isolated and a bit concerned because I was fairly new to the role and then the pressure was coming from a lot higher and I wasn't really sure what I should do with that and whether I could deal with it before it became a bigger problem.”

The financial allegations and booze cruise claims which were reported by Mr Holmes date back to 2001.

The HPC was told that he was then bullied by Mr Lane and Mr Leaman and subjected to a disproportionate disciplinary procedure in 2005.

Transport manager Mr Holmes told the hearing he took Essex Ambulance Service to an employment tribunal over his treatment at the hands of Mr Leaman, now seconded to West Midlands Ambulance Service, and Mr Lane, who no longer works for the trust.

Ms Lord said: “Mr Holmes was victimised by the registrants, which led to an incredibly stressful episode in his life.

“A hard-working, honest man, who sought to stick to the rules, in my submission, was harassed for what was honesty and integrity.”

Mr Holmes also raised a grievance procedure with Essex Ambulance Service because no action was taken against the pair, and when that was unsuccessful he reported them to the HPC.

It is claimed that Mr Lane's and Mr Leaman's fitness to practise is impaired because they breached trust financial rules and misused a trust vehicle.

Mr Leaman is accused of starting disproportionate disciplinary proceedings against Mr Holmes without an investigation, and Mr Lane of bullying Mr Holmes at an internal disciplinary panel meeting.

The two former senior managers admit the facts of the charges but deny that their fitness to practise is impaired.

The hearing was adjourned and is expected to continue today.