Ambulance service order to improve by inspectors

Ambulances queuing outside Royal Preston Hospital. A queue of nine ambulances was spotted on Boxing Day, and paramedics reported a wait of up to 90 minutes to hand over patients
Ambulances queuing outside Royal Preston Hospital. A queue of nine ambulances was spotted on Boxing Day, and paramedics reported a wait of up to 90 minutes to hand over patients
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Lancashire’s ambulance service has been ordered to improve its safety standards after an inspection.

North West Ambulance Service received a ‘Requires Improvement’ rating in the areas of both safety and leadership.

The Trust has now been ordered to take steps to improve these areas, following an inspection by the Care Quality Commission.

High levels of staff vacancies were singled out by inspectors as a problem, with 16.2 per cent of all full-time equivalent posts being vacant.

Last month, the Post reported that the Trust has the highest level of vacancies of any Trust in England and Wales.

There have also been reported problems of ambulances being forced to queue for over an hour outside Royal Preston Hospital’s A&E, meaning that paramedics are not available to respond to emergencies.

In the same inspection, the Trust was given a ‘Good’ rating for being effective, caring and responsive.

NWAS Chief Executive, Derek Cartwright said: “As an organisation which has patients at the heart of all we do, I was extremely pleased to hear that the CQC believes our staff to be caring and compassionate and that we regard safety and quality as a priority. This is one of the key components of an organisation which exists to provide care for patients and it is heartening to hear from the CQC what I have always known. Our staff work hard every day to do the very best they can for patients – from saving lives to offering comfort to relatives, and they should be very proud that this has been recognised.

“We accept the comments in the report relating to improvements required for procedures, guidelines and training, however the inspection took place almost ten months ago and the majority of the points highlighted have already been addressed. For the remainder, we are working to a robust action plan which is being monitored by the Executive team and our Commissioners. These relate to the Trust’s duty of candour and safeguarding of adults procedures and policies, together with the need to increase the recording and learning from incidents.

“The Trust is also addressing its capacity to consent procedures in line with the Mental Capacity Act of 2005, provide support and training in the management of bariatric patients, strengthen the complaints procedures and improve compliance with the Fit and Proper Persons regulations.”

With regard to its care and compassion towards patients and their clinical treatment, the CQC said: “Communication with callers who contacted 999 was effective and reassuring. Staff were compassionate, reassuring and treated callers with dignity and respect.

“There were systems in place to meet the needs of patients in rural locations, which included partnership working with health, social and the voluntary care sector”

“Staff were dedicated and committed to caring for patients and often went above and beyond the expectations of their employer to provide care.”

“Emotional support was offered to patients and their relatives in both life-threatening and emergency situations and also during less urgent situations.”

Mr Cartwright said: “The last 12 months have been extremely challenging for the organisation with unprecedented demand for our services, and it is unfortunate that by not reviewing policies and guidelines as often as we should, we are in the position we are now. We are determined to right this as soon as possible and ensure that staff are given adequate time to complete their mandatory training. This will be a team effort across the whole of the organisation and I am confident that the CQC will see huge improvements when they next visit.”