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Home Maidstone News Article
Kent’s private ambulance provider has been threatened with closure after inspectors discovered a string of failings including a lack of security checks on staff.
NSL Care Services’ county base in Larkfield has been found to be non-compliant with standards in four mandatory areas set by the Care Quality Commission.
The report, published this month by the government’s health watchdog, revealed criminal background checks, known as Disclosure and Barring Service certificates, were missing for every employee record examined by officers.
A DBS helps employers identify applicants who might be deemed unsafe to work with vulnerable groups such as children.
NSL employs more than 200 people at its Sheldon Way site.
It took on more than 20 new workers since it won a £26 million contract in July last year, to deliver journeys for non-emergency patients across Kent.
Further probing by the CQC showed only one new member of staff had been given a DBS review.
The majority of recent new starters had not been checked since the start of their employment, including some who had been working for three months.
The manager said people who did not have a current DBS certificate worked alongside employees with an appropriate check.
However, on one occasion, crew rotas showed two ambulances were staffed entirely by workers who had not undergone criminal background checks.
The unannounced inspection was carried out in November, at around the same time staff across the country moved to strike over proposed changes to shift patterns.
Records also highlighted - in the majority of cases - staff only managed to drive 50% to 60% of customers within an hour of their appointment, and between 35% and 50% of patients within half-an-hour. In some cases, drivers did not arrive at all.
One patient due to be collected from hospital at 6.30pm was still waiting at 3am, while others were left completely stranded and had to stay on a ward for a night.
In September, we revealed how terminally ill John Templeman, from East Malling, was left waiting three hours for a vehicle to take him to a seven-hour chemotherapy session. The company blamed “crew problems.”
Since the partnership with the NHS began in July last year, the Kent branch has had 235 complaints.
In its findings, the CQC criticised the firm for not resolving or responding to just under half of the concerns within 25 workings days. Thirteen complaints had not been addressed from July, August and September.
The CQC will carry out another inspection to check the firm is meeting the necessary standards. If it does not comply, the service could be suspended, cancelled or prosecuted.
NSL Care Services has been ordered to improve in four areas at its Larkfield site.
“We recognise and acknowledge that this is a serious compliance failure on our part and that our learning from this failure is vital" - Wayne Spedding
The Care Quality Commission has issued the company with enforcement notices to make necessary changes in requirements relating to workers, and assessing and monitoring the quality of service provision.
The service provider insists it has taken steps to improve since its damning inspection.
NSL Care Services said it has centralised its complaints department, completed the statutory vetting process for all employees and appointed managers to focus on compliance and patient safety.
Wayne Spedding, chief ambulance officer, said: “We are extremely sorry that we fell short on meeting these essential standards set by the CQC.
“We recognise and acknowledge that this is a serious compliance failure on our part and that our learning from this failure is vital.
"We have been open in fully acknowledging the difficulties encountered, which has led to some patients being collected late, or not at all – and are pleased to say that this has improved."
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