Watchdog orders improvements at region’s ambulance trust but praises its ‘outstanding caring’ services
The region's ambulance trust has been ordered to improve by a health watchdog following a comprehensive inspection.
Experts from the Care Quality Commission said they were concerned about whether East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) was protecting people from the 'risk of avoidable harm' as it is missing performance standards for responding to emergency calls.
But EEAST was praised for its 'caring' services - which were rated as outstanding - and its chief Robert Morton said an 'action plan' had been developed within the areas that needed improvement.
The CQC has ordered the trust to carry out a number of steps including:
- Improvement to performance and response times for emergency calls.
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- There must be adequate numbers of suitably skilled and qualified staff to provide treatment.
- Staff must be appropriately mentored and supported to carry out their role including appraisals.
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It follows the watchdog's inspection in May, when EEAST's emergency operations centres, the urgent and emergency care provided, and patient transport services were scrutinised.
Inspectors found - as highlighted in this newspaper last week - that prolonged delays at some hospital emergency departments (A&E) reduced the capacity of front-line staff to respond to patients' needs.
Heidi Smoult, the CQC's central region deputy chief inspector, said: 'Frontline staff reported that sometimes no vehicles were available to attend 'red' (most serious) calls, especially in rural areas.
'This happened when ambulance crews were responding to other calls and delayed in handing over patients to A&E departments.'
However Ms Smoult said handover between ambulance staff and hospital staff was 'extremely professional'.
She also reported a number of staff saying they regularly worked more hours than their shift which 'had a negative impact on morale'.
'In addition, we were not assured sufficient training was in place to support staff or that supervision and appraisals were undertaken in order to provide staff effective guidance and training opportunities,' Ms Smoult said.
Mr Morton, who joined the trust as chief executive last year, said: 'The report identifies the need to increase our staffing levels so that we can respond to the increases in demand.
'I am absolutely delighted that this report recognises the outstanding care we provide to patients.'