The union GMB is calling for urgent government action after it was revealed desperate 999 call handlers attempted suicide amid an “endemic culture of bullying” at a scandal-hit ambulance service. Leaked reports describe a “culture of fear” in the Coxheath Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) run by South East Coast Ambulance Trust (SECAmb), which saw employees subjected to repeated abuse and harassment.

The investigation reports reveal female members of staff tried to take their own lives because of criticisms, threats of disciplinary, audit and capability action, photography of their clothing and verbal abuse. The dossier also revealed a third victim of bullying at the trust contemplated crashing her car in order to escape the abuse.

Several workers claimed they were left under such pressure they could not concentrate on emergency calls, impairing their responses to the public.

One report described an “endemic culture of bullying and harassment” by top managers.

GMB regional organiser Gary Palmer said despite a series of reports finding senior managers responsible for the bullying and harassment and a subsequent cover up, they “have not only not had action taken against them as recommended, but have enjoyed promotions and impunity.”

Paul Maloney, GMB Southern region secretary, said: “Staff have been ignored for years. Why does it take attempted suicides to bring these matters to a head whilst government legislation cripples the NHS through regulation and lack of funding? I can’t imagine how many tens of thousands of pounds has been spent on flawed investigations, sickness, suspensions and dismissals only to protect a jackboots regime.”