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South East Coast Ambulance Service - SECAmb remains in special measures

By Ellis Stephenson

The ambulance service which covers Kent has been ordered to remain in special measures, after a new inspection.

England’s Chief Inspector of Hospitals has told SECAmb (South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust) that it must continue to make significant improvements to its services, following its latest inspection by the Care Quality Commission.

The trust was first labelled as failing in September last year.

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The motorcyclist died in the crash. Stock image

In the latest inspection, the CQC said the trust needs to make urgent improvements in a number of areas, including recording 999 calls.

It was also told to protect patients from the risks associated with the unsafe use of medicines, make sure there are enough clinicians in each emergency operation centre and investigate incidents in a timely way.

But inspectors found the trust had made some improvements since the May 2016 inspection, particularly around reporting of incidents, and staffing levels during busy periods.

A new board was tackling the issues but further progress was still needed, it found.

“It is clear there have been deep-rooted problems and the trust would now benefit from a period of stable management to address these issues" - Professor Ted Baker

The mental health street triage service was found to be outstanding, and the Hazardous Area Response Team also came in for praise.

Inspectors also said the NHS 111 helpline was good after it had made a number of improvements.

Staff generally were found to be compassionate, treating patients and callers with kindness and respect including those in mental health crisis.

But, although there was a reduction in bullying and harassment, there still remained concerns about the overall culture within the trust, the report said.

SECAmb’s chief executive, Daren Mochrie, said: “While I am disappointed that not enough progress has been made for us to improve our overall rating, I am confident that progress is being made and that this will continue.

Ambulance crews are attending the scene. Stock image: Secamb

“I believe that the pace of improvement has picked up since the CQC visit in May 2017 but I am very aware, as is our senior team, that there remains a significant amount of work to be done.

“Our updated Improvement Plan focuses on the areas where we are determined to make major improvements in the months ahead.

“We are working with our local commissioners to ensure that we are funded appropriately and have the right resources to meet the demand we are facing.

“Right across the Trust, staff are working flat out to ensure the necessary improvements continue to be made and I am pleased that staff told inspectors that they feel more positive about the organisation and that we are heading in the right direction.

Daren Mochrie is the chief executive of South East Coast Ambulance

The CQC’s chief inspector of hospitals, Professor Ted Baker, said: “Although we have seen some areas of improvement, South East Coast Ambulance NHS Foundation Trust has not yet made enough progress for me to recommend that it should leave special measures.

“I am concerned that the previous leadership had not fully addressed longstanding cultural issues and in particular the historical problems of bullying and harassment.

“While the problem is now being addressed there is still work to be done here and in the management of medicines.

“It is clear there have been deep-rooted problems and the trust would now benefit from a period of stable management to address these issues.”

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