East of England Ambulance Service criticised over delays

Ambulance Service

Ambulance Service - Credit: Archant

AMBULANCE chiefs have been rapped over the knuckles by care inspectors over delays people have been experiencing waiting for the emergency service to arrive.

The Care Quality commission (CQC) conducted out an unannounced inspection of the East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) in January. And while the trust met several other standards, they have been told to take action over the care and welfare of patients who have to use the service.

As a result, EEAST interim chief executive, Andrew Morgan, has admitted that its performance and response times, “are simply not good enough.”

He has pledged more frontline staff and ambulances and said the trust was carrying out a review to better understand what resources were required to meet patient demand.

Mr Morgan said the service was also seeking to reduce the delays it experienced in handing over patients at hospitals and hoped to learn from the “good practice” of other ambulance trusts around the country.

CQC said that prior to the inspection, it had received a number of complaints from people who had waited a long time for an ambulance to arrive to take them to hospital.

The report went on: “In some instances this has been up to three hours, causing them much distress and discomfort. We had also received concerns from the trust’s own staff telling us about long waits on scene for appropriate back-up vehicles that could transport people to hospital.”

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It added: “Some staff also expressed concern that the trust’s recent re-design of its staff rotas to better meet demands for its service, would be ineffective in imnproving response times.”

The Herts Advertiser has carried several stories in recent months about local people suffering long delays waiting for an ambulance to arrive. But although the trust claimed it had boosted its vehicle fleet and staff numbers, it transpired that they had not done so in Herts.

A whistleblower told this newspaper that the service had been hit by the closure of A&E departments in Herts which had meant ambulances having to go further afield to take patients to the two main hospitals – Watford General and the Lister in Stevenage.

CQC found that the interaction between ambulance staff and people using the service was “consistently good” with staff showing genuine concern, respect and care for the people they assisted.

Hospital staff also had a good working relationship with ambulance crews and no concerns about their professional practice.

But EEAST was not meeting its response times across the region, due partly to an increase in calls for ambulances and also because of delays in sending back-up to incidents where the initial response had been made by solo responders wanting an ambulance to take a patient on to hospital.

CQC has told EEAST to send a report to them by next Wednesday, March 27, setting out the action it will take to meet ambulance response times.

It has the option of taking enforcement action if it is not satisfied with the response.