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Air ambulance team is first emergency helicopter service to achieve outstanding CQC rating

Air Ambulance Kent Surrey Sussex (KSS) has become the first emergency helicopter service to be rated outstanding by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

The charity which responds to emergency incidents across three counties gained top marks in all five keys areas of the framework - safe, effective, caring, responsive and well-led.

Inspectors rated KSS, a registered charity, as outstanding for being safe, effective, caring, responsive and well-led
Inspectors rated KSS, a registered charity, as outstanding for being safe, effective, caring, responsive and well-led

Recognition was given to its ‘strong leadership’, ‘thoroughly patient focused team,’ ‘open culture to reporting all types of incidents,’ ‘highly motivated staff’ and ‘strong, comprehensive systems and processes.’

Whilst the organisation has been registered since 2011, it is this first time the regulations have allowed the CQC to give a rating.

Chief executive David Welch said: “Receiving an outstanding rating from the CQC across the board is testament to the dedication and commitment of our exceptional team, who work tirelessly to ensure the right treatments and best possible outcomes for our patients.

"My sincere thanks go to every single member of Team KSS - staff, volunteers, partners and stakeholders - all of whom have contributed to this amazing achievement. I am incredibly proud and privileged to lead our outstanding team who show an exceptional commitment to our patients and to supporting one another ‘the KSS Way’ with people at the heart of everything we do.

"Our health service is currently faced with an unprecedented challenge and we are exploring new ways that we can best deploy our experience, expertise and resources to support the NHS and the wider community at such a critical time.”

David Welch, chief executive of Air Ambulance Kent Surrey Sussex
David Welch, chief executive of Air Ambulance Kent Surrey Sussex

Operating out of Redhill Aerodrome and headquartered in Rochester, the charity provides pre-hospital emergency care at more than 2,500 incidents each year.

Covering Kent, Surrey and Sussex, the teams serves a population of 4.8 million – one of the busiest in the UK.

Inspectors praised engagement with its partners such as local NHS trusts and the Ministry of Defence.

KSS’s collaboration with local, national and international partner organisations to help improve services to patients was also singled out.

They also focused on KSS’s commitment to the local community as ‘integral to how services were planned and ensured services met the needs of local people and the communities served.’

Air Ambulance for Kent, Sussex & Surrey serves a population of 4.8 million. Picture: matthewwalkerphotography.com
Air Ambulance for Kent, Sussex & Surrey serves a population of 4.8 million. Picture: matthewwalkerphotography.com

Philip Astle, chief executive of South East Coast Ambulance Foundation Trust, said:"I am incredibly proud to be a partner of KSS and the fact that the CQC have rated them so highly is absolutely no surprise to those of us who work closely with them.

"They are a team full of people who strive for excellence, are innovative, enthusiastic and tireless in their search to improve patient care.

"They are fantastic partners who always seek to maximise the effect of that partnership rather than seek organisational gain."

KSS was the first, and only, UK Air Ambulance to operate its helicopters 24/7.

Of the more than £14million needed to sustain the service each year, 89% is raised by public donation and fundraising.

KSS crews of pilots, doctors and paramedics fly more than 2,500 missions a year
KSS crews of pilots, doctors and paramedics fly more than 2,500 missions a year

Dr Nigel Acheson, deputy chief inspector of Hospitals (London and South), said: “The service has a vision for what it wanted to achieve and a strategy to turn it into an action, developed with all relevant stakeholders.

"Feedback from people who use the service was continually positive about the way staff treat people; they thought that staff went the extra mile and the care they received exceeded their expectations.”

Dr Helen Bowcock, chairwoman of the Board of Trustees, added: “We congratulate our teams for receiving so many commendations including on our open and collaborative culture, our holistic approach to care and the cohesion throughout our organisation."

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