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MPs to meet health regulator over ambulance performance

PUBLISHED: 12:00 09 February 2013 | UPDATED: 13:55 10 February 2013

Ambulances outside the ambulance station at the QEH.

Ambulances outside the ambulance station at the QEH.

Archant © 2008

Ongoing concerns over East Anglia’s under-performing ambulance trust will be discussed between England’s healthcare regulator and MPs next week.

High ranking officials from the Care Quality Commission will talk with MPs on Monday over the performance issues surrounding the East of England Ambulance Service.

The meeting comes after it emerged that the regulator had conducted their annual unannounced inspection of the ambulance trust to check whether the NHS trust was meeting essential standards of quality and safety.

All health trusts and social care providers in England are routinely inspected by the CQC, which is responsible for checking whether providers comply with the essential standards of quality and safety. If the regulator finds failing services it can issue warning notices and issue fixed penalty notices and can go as far as suspending or cancelling the service’s registration or prosecute.

The performance of the service has been under scrutiny for months after MPs and patients raised serious concerns about response times and long delays in getting to hospital, as reported by the EDP as part of our Ambulance Watch campaign. Paramedics have also expressed their concerns about a controversial redesign of rota and low staff morale at a trust that is looking to make £50m of efficiency savings over the next four years.

A spokesman for the East of England Ambulance Service yesterday confirmed that the trust had received the inspection and concerns about response targets for 999 calls were the only issue the CQC inspectors had raised. The spokesman added that Monday’s meeting was not called as a result of the inspection, but to respond to MPs concerns.

The EDP has learnt that five senior figures from the CQC will be attending the meeting on Monday to discuss the performance of the ambulance trust, including national professional adviser on ambulance and emergency care services, head of regional compliance, and corporate policy projects manager.

A CQC spokesman said: “The Care Quality Commission regularly engages with MPs as part of its work and on Monday will be meeting together with MPs to discuss its ongoing work in relation to the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust.”

Latest figures reveal that the ambulance service only reached 63.9pc of the most urgent 999 calls within eight minutes up until the end of November - missing its 68pc target.

In November, 68.6pc of ‘red’ calls were responded to within eight minutes and 88.9pc within 19 minutes in Suffolk compared to the national target of 75pc and 95pc respectively.

The talks on Monday will be followed by another meeting next month with MPs set to quiz the trust’s chairman Maria Ball and interim chief executive Andrew Morgan on March 14 to get an update on the performance of the ambulance service.

Ambulance chiefs launched a new campaign to hire dozens of extra frontline staff earlier this year and is in the process of recruiting a total of 199 new paramedics and emergency care assistants (ECAs). So far this year the trust has recruited 115 ECAs. However, out of the 75 new paramedic roles, 24 have been offered positions.

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