Page last updated at 21:01 GMT, Tuesday, 24 March 2009

'Booze cruise' used NHS vehicle

Two ambulance managers used an NHS vehicle to go on a "booze cruise" to France, a disciplinary panel has heard.

Essex Ambulance staff Richard Lane and Paul Leaman had some seats taken out to fit in more alcohol, it was claimed.

The trust then had to foot the bill for the alterations in 2001, the Health Professions Council (HPC) was told.

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

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."

'Removed back seats'

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

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.

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.

'Victimisation'

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 and Mr Lane.

Mr Leaman is now seconded to West Midlands Ambulance Service and Mr Lane 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 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 hearing was adjourned until Wednesday.



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