Adam Vandermark, a commissioning editor at Channel 4, says that “the undercover filming was conducted in full compliance with Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code”. The broadcaster has made sure that “all identities of patients and staff will be fully and effectively protected and obscured in the programme”.
He adds that it was clearly in the public interest. “The film clearly reveals the true nature of the crisis affecting A&E departments during the winter months and the reality of the situation from someone who was deeply involved in the crisis itself,” he says.
“There has been considerable coverage of the crisis involving interviews with patients and relatives affected, but this account offers a unique story from an ambulance worker on the front line during the time.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care tells i: “No one should have to wait longer than necessary to access urgent and emergency care and waiting times have substantially reduced from the peak of winter pressures in December.
“Our Urgent and Emergency Care Recovery Plan, which was welcomed by the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, will allow people to be seen quicker by scaling up community teams, expanding virtual wards, and getting 800 new ambulances on the road. This is on top of £750m we’ve provided this winter to speed up hospital discharge and free up beds.
“There are over 44,300 more staff working in the NHS compared to last year. We want to build on this progress and will publish a workforce plan this year focused on recruiting and retaining more staff.”
Asked about the film’s findings, an East of England Ambulance Service Trust spokesperson told the documentary team that “extreme seasonal pressures and handover delays at hospitals, caused by complexities within the wider health and care system, significantly affected our ability to respond.
They added: “We are sorry that EEAST was often not able to attend even our most serious patients as quickly as we would wish, and we apologise to those directly affected. We have seen improvements in response times but our service, alongside the wider NHS, remains under significant pressure.”
In his resignation letter, Waterhouse wrote: “Unfortunately I have reached a limit mentally and emotionally and feel unable to continue in my job.”
If everyone in the NHS felt forced to make that decision, there wouldn’t be a health service left to help anyone. Waterhouse can only hope that his covert recording will help give the colleagues he’s leaving behind the help they need to keep saving lives.
‘Undercover Ambulance: NHS in Chaos’ will be on Channel 4 and All4 on Thursday 9 March at 9pm