England’s Chief Inspector of Hospitals has told East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust that it must make improvements after it was rated as Requires Improvement by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust provides emergency medical services to Bedfordshire and was rated as Requires Improvement overall following an inspection which took place in March this year, the trust was rated as Outstanding for whether its services were caring and Requires Improvement for whether its services were safe, effective, well-led and responsive.
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.”
East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust acknowledged that there is always room for improvement but it was pleased to see that the CQC recognised improvement across some of the individual areas of rating.
The Trust’s Chief Executive Robert Morton said: “Yet again our staff were rated as ‘outstanding’ for caring.
“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.
“The CQC inspected the Trust at a time when staff were extremely tired and under pressure.. There will always be room for improvement.”
There are several areas where improvements must be made, including that the trust must improve its performance and response times for emergency calls and ensure processes and procedures are consistently applied across the trust.
Risk registers must be reviewed and staff must be appropriately mentored and supported to carry out their roles.
Robert added: “We are aware of the many challenges we face here in the east. Engaging with our staff, across a virtual organisation which is spread out across a an area of 7,500 square miles, can be a huge task.
“Our workforce are highly mobile and travel approx 12 million miles a year supporting or delivering the best care we can to patients.
“We are working to ensure the leaders at every level in our organisation are given the time and space to build effective, communicative teams at a local level – particularly during tough periods like winter.
“We are a united Board-level team with a wide range of expertise and experience to help us strengthen our service and help EEAST remain focused on our patients.
“The care we provide for them means we’re in the best position ever to provide the modern, high-quality and sustainable health services our communities need.
“With the right investment, including £11.5m of additional funding this year - we will get better and better.”