Scottish Ambulance Service Boss Sacked After Asking 999 Call Handler to Leave Post and Pick Him Up From the Airport

In Mr Christopher Gallacher v Scottish Ambulance Service Board, a tribunal heard how a senior Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) manager ordered a 999 call handler to pick him and his family up from the airport. As a result, they dismissed his claims of unfair dismissal.

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The Facts in Mr Christopher Gallacher v Scottish Ambulance Service Board

Background – 999 Call Handler Ordered to Airport Pickup

Mr Christopher Gallacher (“The Claimant”) had been a duty manager for the SAS (“The Respondent”) for over five years. Yet he’d been with them for much longer, having racked up 20 years of service.

On 17 July 2022, the claimant demanded a 999 call handler to pick him and his family up from the airport after returning from a holiday. The call operator collected them in a pool car, removing them from their duties for 45 minutes. This occurred on a busy night when several public members had long waits to receive medical attention.

Two days later, the SAS were informed about the claimant’s actions and suspended him. Matters were worsened when, on 1 August 2022, a newspaper article entitled “Scots ambulance boss had 999 call handler leave post to pick him & family up from Glasgow Airport” was published.

SAS Investigate Manager’s Demands of 999 Call Handler

Subsequently, a detailed investigation occurred, which was completed on 3 February 2023. The claimant was then invited to a disciplinary hearing, which took place on 10 May. 

During the investigation, the claimant attempted to defend his position. He pointed to his previous unblemished record and said that similar instances concerning the misuse of pool cars had occurred. He also highlighted that there wasn’t a policy concerning using pool cars for personal use. 

Duty Manager Sacked for Gross Misconduct

However, a week later, the claimant learned that many allegations had been upheld. This included that the claimant had:

  • Asked for a favour by arranging for the use of a pool vehicle for his own personal gain
  • Ordered a 999 call handler to abandon his post, knowingly depleting cover and potentially impacting public safety
  • Abused his position of power
  • Breached the values of the SAS through his actions
  • Brought the service into disrepute

The respondent stated that behaviour logically known to be misconduct didn’t require a policy. They also couldn’t find any evidence of previous misuse of pool cars but took the claimant’s claims into account. Despite this, they found him guilty of gross misconduct, reasoning his actions had “resulted in trust and confidence being destroyed”. As such, the claimant was dismissed on 17 May.

On 29 May, the claimant appealed his decision, and a hearing took place on 24 July. However, the claimant learned his appeal was unsuccessful on 31 July. Again, it was emphasised he’d made a severe error of judgment in calling on the 999 call handler, which had irreparably damaged their relationship. Subsequently, the claimant made unfair dismissal claims to an employment tribunal.

The Employment Tribunal’s Judgment

The tribunal stated that they had to establish whether the respondent acted fairly and reasonably in dismissing the claimant. They began by considering several individual issues that led to the decision made by the respondent. 

This included the apparent fact that the claimant had demanded the 999 call handler to pick him up from the airport. However, it also included the claimant’s length of service, previous unblemished record, partial apology and offer to pay for financial losses.

After careful deliberations, the tribunal concluded the respondent had acted fairly and reasonably in their dismissal decision. Furthermore, they understood that other options were available and that other employers may have acted differently. Despite this, they explained it didn’t take away from the respondent’s actions being reasonable.

The tribunal stated that the SAS had carefully considered the incident involving the 999 call handler and all surrounding factors. As such, they ruled the respondent’s actions fell within the range of reasonable responses and dismissed the unfair dismissal claims.

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