PATIENTS and staff are still being let down by the Essex’s ambulance service, a new report suggests.
The Care Quality Commission’s latest review of the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust points to some improvements, but remains critical of its slow response to the most serious emergency calls.
The report confirms the trust – which covers Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire – is operating in an acceptable way in five out of seven areas.
However, it calls for action to improve response times and staffing levels.
It adds: “Since our last inspection (in February 2013) we found the trust had made significant improvements in a number of areas.
“Staff sickness absence rates had reduced and the number of staff who had received a performance development review had increased considerably.
“Complaints relating to delays had decreased, as had the number of serious incidents experienced by the trust.
“However, the trust has not seen the improvement needed in some areas, such as ambulance response times to life-threatening 999 calls.”
It goes on to highlight cases of ambulances still being delayed at hospitals, stroke patients not always arriving at specialist centres within an hour and the need for more qualified paramedics.
The report has been referred to the Trust Development Authority, the body which oversees NHS trusts, but the commission stops short of recommending enforcement action. Trust chief executive Dr Anthony Marsh said: “This is an important report, as it acknowledges the improvements that have already been made.
“It highlights the need to reduce long response times and ambulance back-up delays to patients. I welcome this report, as it shows everyone where we are. It shows the improvements we have made and confirms the changes we are making will tackle the other areas which need improvement, although this will take time.”
The day before the report was published, ambulance trust board chairman Dr Geoffrey Harris, resigned from his post.
AREAS WHERE STANDARDS WERE MET:
Safety, availability and suitability of equipment
Support, care and training of staff
Assessment and monitoring of the service Handling complaints.
AREAS WHERE ACTION IS STILL NEEDED:
Staffing levels – the trust did not have the suitably qualified staff it needed to ensure national ambulance response times were met and patients got the care they needed in a timely way
Care and welfare of patients – People received good-quality care from ambulance crews, but the trust had yet to make improvements needed to respond more quickly to people in potentially life-threatening situations.