Ambulance service told to improve by health watchdog
East of England Ambulance service rated “outstanding” in just one area
A health service watchdog has ordered the East of England ambulance service to improve its service.
The East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) were below standard in all but one key area when it was inspected by the Care Quality Commission back in April.
The CQC’s report, published last month, revealed that just one area was given an “outstanding” rating.
The trust’s emergency operations centres, urgent and emergency care and patient transport services were all examined by the CQC.
Professor Sir Mike Richards, chief inspector of hospitals, said: “The trust was under significant pressure and was failing to meet performance standards and targets for response to emergency calls.
“Resources were frequently unavailable as they were unable to hand over patients to acute providers in a timely way.
“There was ongoing significant issues in recruitment of paramedics across the trust with particular ‘hotspots’ in certain areas including Norfolk and Cambridgeshire.
“The emergency operations centres were recruiting clinical staff into ‘clinical hubs’ to dramatically improve the number of patients treated over the telephone or signposted to more appropriate services.
“There were low levels of mandatory training and many staff were not equipped with the skills to care for people living with dementia and mental health problems and a poor knowledge of the Mental Capacity Act 2005.
“There were also areas of poor practice where the trust needs to make improvements.
“Importantly, the trust must improve performance and response times for emergency calls and ensure that there are adequate numbers of suitable skilled and qualified staff to provide safe care and treatment.”
The service fell short of its target for responding to the most serious medical emergencies in May this year.
Red 1 calls for patients in life-threatening conditions require an ambulance to arrive within eight minutes, with the Government saying this should be met for 75% of incidents.
But in March this year the service hit an all-time low of 51.04 per cent.
However the report gave the service a mark of “outstanding” for their care of patients and EEAST chief executive Robert Morton said he was “absolutely delighted” that the report had recognised their efforts and passion.
He added: “We know we have more work to do, to move us from ‘requires improvement’ to ‘good’, and we have in place a plan to address the points raised by the CQC.
“The report identifies the need to increase our staffing levels so that we can respond to the increases in demand we are seeing, achieve national targets and meet the expectations of our patients, commissioners and regulators.
“We continue to work with our commissioners and the NHS to discuss and address this issue.
“I want to pay tribute to our staff and volunteers and I am absolutely delighted that this report recognises the outstanding care we provide to patients, day in day out. It is a testament to all of our staff and volunteers whom provide care to patients, whether on the road or over the phone, that we are the only ambulance service to get an outstanding rating.”
The CQC interviewed 150 people as part of its inspection. EEAST covers the six counties of Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk.
It is an area which has a population of around six million people and covers approximately 7,500 square miles. It employs around 4000 staff and 1500 volunteers and was formed in 2006 following the amalgamation of three ambulance services.
In 2014/5 the service received almost one million 999 calls.