What is going wrong with our Ambulance Services?

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Our ambulance service has been placed into special measures by the health inspectorate after receiving the lowest-possible rating of ‘inadequate.’

The CQC inspected SSG UK Specialist Ambulance Service South – which provides emergency and urgent care and patient transport in the south-east. these are commissioned by local NHS trusts. The inspection took place after  – in response to concerns raised over its medicines, staffing, and overall management.

The service was rated ‘inadequate’ in all aspects – including safety, effectiveness, and being well-led – apart from responsiveness and quality of care, the former rated as ‘requires improvement’ while the latter did not have sufficient evidence to provide a rating.

The health inspectorate identified a number of issues. These included, the unsafe management of medicines; incidents in which patients health or well-being were not properly reported; and national practice guidelines were not followed when transferring mental health patients, where risk assessments were not carried out.

 No evidence was shown that paramedics and technicians had completed the appropriate training and competency to administer medicines safely. Neither had all staff completed the relevant training to competently fulfil their role.

There were also issues with the service’s recruitment process as records and check of staff fitness were either unavailable or incomplete.

CQC deputy chief inspector of hospitals, Dr Nigel Acheson, said: “We are all well aware that our ambulance services are under a tremendous amount of pressure and scrutiny. However, when we inspected the SSG UK Specialist Ambulance Service South recently, we were extremely concerned at the disconnect we identified between the senior team and the staff working on the frontline. We saw no sign of a clear vision and strategy and a lack of response to the concerns we had previously raised.

“The vision for the trust was not clearly articulated by the senior team and staff. The local managers provided us with different visions for the future but not how these plans would come into action, which did not assure us that the teams were working cohesively.”

The southeast ambulance service will be inspected again in six months’ time.

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