‘Hard-working’ ambulance service staff praised after inspection success

A South Central Ambulance Service ambulance outside the Horton General Hospital NNL-160816-115845009
A South Central Ambulance Service ambulance outside the Horton General Hospital NNL-160816-115845009

The ‘hard-working’ staff at South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) have been commended as the organisation maintained its ‘good’ rating from the health watchdog while making improvements.

Improvements have been made across SCAS NHS Foundation Trust’s emergency and urgent care service, resilience and emergency operations centres, and NHS 111 service since the last Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection in 2016.

Following visits from inspectors in July and August, the trust kept its overall ‘good’ rating and upped its effectiveness rating from ‘requires improvement’ to ‘good’ for a clean sweep.

SCAS chief executive Will Hancock said: “At a time when pressure on all our services continues to rise, I would like to thank all our staff and volunteers for their commitment, dedication and hard work that have been recognised in this latest CQC inspection.

“Since the last inspection in 2016, inspectors have recognised the improvements made to services, the success we have had in recruiting more staff despite considerable challenges and it is particularly pleasing that staff told the CQC they felt supported, valued and respected.

“Today’s publication recognises that we consistently deliver safe, patient-centred care across all of our services.

“I am proud to lead an organisation with such a culture of continuous improvement, and one where delivering the very best care for every patient is at the heart of what every one of my colleagues does day in, day out.”

In emergency and urgent care, inspectors found the trust ensured there were enough staff and they could do their roles competently with different roles working closely together.

While some staff felt there were gaps in their training, there was evidence of regular appraisals where staff were supported to improve the effectiveness of themselves and the service.

Overall the trust’s performance for dealing with Category 1 emergency calls is better than the national average.

The inspection found that the hazardous area response team, resilience and special operations services have close working relationships with local partner agencies.

Within the emergency operations centre, inspectors found that services were planned and audited to meet local needs, although there were periods when the service was unable to provide enough emergency call takers.

There had been some turnover of staff including clinicians and call takers: at times call answering performance was below the national average.

But the inspection found that staff cared for patients with compassion, involving patients and those close to them in decisions about their care and treatment, and provided emotional support.

Staff also understood their roles and responsibilities in relation to safeguarding vulnerable adults and children.

CQC deputy chief inspector of hospitals Dr Nigel Acheson said: “We are all well aware of the pressures on our ambulance services – so I am pleased to acknowledge the continuing improvements made by SCAS NHS Foundation Trust to build on the findings of our last inspection.

“The trust has implemented changes to ensure the organisation is more effective but still remains patient centred.

“Staff have consistently demonstrated kindness, dignity and respect to patients and callers during some very difficult and demanding situations.

“We found a strong senior leadership team that was able to address any risks to performance, while ensuring that these improvements could also be delivered.”

The report highlighted how the trust was leading service innovation, for example, within NHS 111 through the provision of new services such as mental health, pharmacy, dentistry, paediatrics and end-of-life care, as well as technological innovations such as through the use of augmented reality headsets which provide holograms to help training in the workplace.

Professor Helen Young, executive director of patient care and service transformation at SCAS, said: “I am delighted that the CQC reports confirm that we are making great progress on our journey of continuous improvement.

“It was particularly pleasing to see that the inspectors identified a number of areas of outstanding practice, such as our pioneering Falls and Frailty Service partnerships that help keep frail and elderly patients out of hospital, and the well-established ‘Bright Ideas’ scheme.

“Under the scheme, innovations such as our Trauma App and Clinical Pathways App have helped deliver real benefits to our staff, our patients’ experiences and clinical outcomes.”

A copy of the full report can be found at: https://www.cqc.org.uk/provider/RYE