BOSSES at the East of England Ambulance Service have defended a health watchdog report that says slow callouts led to a “number of serious incidents”.
The trust, which employs around 4,000 staff and 1,500 volunteers who are based at more than 130 sites including ambulance stations, emergency operations centres and support offices across the East of England, was rated “requires improvement” by the Care Quality Commission in a report today, July 4.
It was however rated “outstanding” for its level of caring after its visit in March, that coincided with one of the busiest winters the NHS has known.
Concerns included how it failed to meet response times targets, resulting in a number of “serious incidents” and poor staff morale.
CQC’s Chief Inspector of Hospitals, Professor Ted Baker, said: “Our inspectors found some progress had been made at the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust, since our previous inspection, but that a number of improvements were still clearly needed.
“We found improvements had been made with regard to safeguarding, staff understanding of the Mental Capacity Act and incident reporting procedures.
“But the trust still did not meet national ambulance response standards and over the winter period delays resulted in a number of serious incidents.
“We were also concerned that, at the time of our inspection, staff morale was low.
“People working at the trust described a culture of late shift finishes, frustration at not being able to provide the service they wanted to due to pressures on the trust and disengagement between front line staff and the senior management team.
“People said they did not always feel valued, particularly after what had been an exhausting winter.
“However, we found a number of areas of outstanding practice and that staff were overwhelmingly caring and dedicated to providing the best care they could to patients. People who used the service also gave positive feedback.
“We fed our findings back to the trust immediately after our inspection, citing the areas where improvements must be made as a priority, and we have been monitoring the trust, working closely with NHS Improvement and other stakeholders, to help drive through improvements.
“The trust leadership knows what action it must take to bring about improvement and we will return to inspect and check on its progress.”
The East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust said the CQC had noted it had made some progress in areas including safeguarding, staff’s understanding of the Mental Capacity Act and incident reporting procedures.
Inspectors also saw evidence of “staff going the extra mile to ensure that patients were cared for”.
Chief executive Robert Morton said: “Yet again our staff were rated as ‘outstanding’ for caring.
“The team inspected our Trust during the most challenging winter for the NHS on record, and just weeks after a risk summit called for the NHS system in the region to work together to improve patient experience.
“We worked with all our regulators, including the CQC, from very early on in this period to ensure we were open and honest with all the challenges we were facing and how we were leading the system to improve services to patients.
“The improvements the CQC saw were in some areas of the Patient Transport Services and our Emergency Operations Centres where we handle and triage 999 calls.
“I’d like to thank everyone who welcomed the inspection team and gave their views, supported our colleagues in providing a wealth of data and information to the CQC before, during and after the inspection, and represented the ‘We Are EEAST’ approach to our caring and compassionate work.”