Ambulance service 'must improve' - CQC

PUBLISHED: 11:00 07 October 2016

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The ambulance service which covers North Somerset has been ordered to improve by health watchdog the Care Quality Commission (CQC) after an inspection highlighted concerns over its safety and leadership.

South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWAS) earned a mixed bag of ratings in the 30 areas assessed, including four examples of ‘outstanding’ practice and one judged ‘inadequate’.

In the five key judgement areas, the service was rated as ‘outstanding’ for care and ‘good’ for being responsive, but was told it ‘requires improvement’ in safety, effectiveness and leadership.

This meant the overall rating for SWAS – which supports more than five million people from Cornwall to Bristol – was ‘requires improvement’ after a comprehensive inspection which saw CQC officers visit 20 ambulance stations and interview workers at all levels.

England’s Chief Inspector of Hospitals Sir Mike Richards said: “The trust has a strong and stable leadership team, which has put quality and safety as key priorities and has organised staff and resources well across a wide geographic area, responding well, on the most part, to the most urgent calls.

“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. 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.

“We identified a number of areas for improvement. Our inspectors will return at a later date to check on their progress.”

SWAS managers say they have already instigated some of the suggested improvements, but add the record 911,000 incidents the service dealt with last year amount to 500 a day more than five years ago, putting a strain on resources.

Chief executive Ken Wenman said also said there was much to be ‘extremely proud of’ within the report, notably crews’ ‘outstanding compassion, kindness and respect’ for patients.

He added: “Where there are specific lessons to be learned we will of course take the necessary actions to make positive changes and improvements.”

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