October 5, 2016
Ambulance service told by inspectors that it 'requires improvement'

A Care Quality Commission report released today (Wednesday) has rated South West Ambulance Service - which operates in the Burnham-On-Sea area - as "requiring improvement" in a number of areas, despite good performance in others.

England's Chief Inspector of Hospitals has told the service that it must make improvements to some of its services following an inspection in June by the Care Quality Commission.

Overall, South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust has been rated as "requires improvement" although its services were rated "Outstanding" for caring, and "Good" for being responsive. The trust was rated "Requires Improvement" for whether its services were safe, effective and well-led.

A team of inspectors looked at six core services: Emergency Operations Centres, Emergency and Urgent Care including the Hazardous Area Response Team (HART) and Patient Transport Services.

Professor Sir Mike Richards, Chief Inspector of Hospitals, said: "As demand for emergency care grows year by year, our ambulance services have never been busier. I know that South Western Ambulance Service is at the forefront of national improvements in the ambulance service, exploring better ways to deal with emergency calls so that people get the attention they need, in the right place and at the right time."

"The trust has a strong and stable leadership team, which has put quality and safety as key priorities and has organised the staff and resources well across a wide geographic area, responding well, on the most part, to the most urgent calls, and working closely with other NHS providers to maximise the effectiveness of the service."

"We found staff in the emergency operations centres and emergency and urgent services to be outstanding in the way they supported people who were distressed or overwhelmed in often highly stressful situations."

"However we also found some variation in quality across the services we inspected. There were significant gaps in mandatory training and we found the levels of staffing were not always sufficient to provide relief when staff were training, or on leave."

"I am concerned that not all staff were reporting incidents, particularly when they were verbally abused by callers. Some felt that they did not have time to report all incidents, so losing the chance to learn from them and take appropriate action in future."

"During the inspection we identified a number of areas for improvement which we have passed on to the trust and to local commissioners. Our inspectors will return at a later date to check on their progress."

Commenting on the report, Chris Nelson, co-secretary for UNISON SW ambulance service branch, said: "All our staff in the ambulance service are working flat-out to maintain standards across the board. Our members are committed public service workers who want to see the best possible care for their patients. Their caring and dedicated work in an incredibly challenging environment was rightly praised by the CQC."

"While services can and should improve, funding is simply inadequate to reach the standards we all want. Staff will continue to make the best of what they’ve got, but without additional resources into ambulance services, demand on our members is just too high."

"The report highlights mental and physical health problems among ambulance service workers. Unless the government allocates more funding and staffing, there’s a risk that quality will take another hit. World-class public services need real investment in the people who carry them out, not ever-increasing demands on overstretched staff."

"We have already started planning in partnership with management and the CQC to deal with issues in the report, despite the government’s refusal to provide enough funding."


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