‘Warning notice’ for Sussex ambulance service

South East Coast Ambulance Service crew
South East Coast Ambulance Service crew

Sussex’s ambulance service has been issued with a warning notice by health regulators after an inspection in May.

Bosses at South East Coast Ambulance NHS Foundation Trust (SECAmb) said they needed to ‘restore public confidence and faith in our service’ after the Care Quality Commission (CQC) identified six main areas of concern, and gave the trust until September to improve.

The CQC found that systems to ensure enough staff are employed and deployed appropriately are not effective, NHS 111 calls are not always responded to in a timely and effective manner, processes to ensure that equipment is properly maintained are not adequate, and systems for medicines management are not operated safely and effectively.

Both SECAmb’s chairman and chief executive resigned earlier this year after the fallout from a controversial pilot which delaying dispatching ambulances to some patients in the winter of 2014/15, while the trust also admitted last month it was ‘failing to reach some patients as quickly as it would like’ due to rising demand, delays at hospitals, and staff shortages.

Geraint Davies, acting chief executive of SECAmb, said: “The trust is sorry for not providing the service that the communities we serve should expect and deserve.

“Along with the rest of the trust’s executive team, our priority now is to focus on addressing the issues which the CQC has highlighted.

“We know that there is a lot that the Trust needs to do to improve compliance with a number of systems and processes to ensure the safety of our patients.

“Following the inspection, we have been working hard to address the issues raised and will continue to do so over the coming months.

“My aim is to restore public confidence and faith in our service.”

Sir Peter Dixon, SECAmb’s interim chairman, said: “There have been some serious failings which we will need to address quickly.

“When the full CQC report is published, we will ensure that the public are provided with an update on the progress made.”

The full CQC report is expected to be published later this year.

Sir Mike Richards, chief inspector of hospitals at the CQC, said: “People who rely South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust are entitled to an ambulance service that is consistently safe, effective and responsive to their needs.

“On the evidence of our inspection we have found that patients were not receiving the quality of care that they are entitled to expect, or within the timescales required.

“We have told the trust that it must improve and treat patients in a timely manner with care, dignity and respect. We have given the trust until 10 September to address these immediate concerns. We will continue to monitor the trust closely, and will be returning in the near future to check that the trust has taken appropriate action to address these immediate issues.”

The ambulance trust, which covers Sussex, Surrey and Kent, has already agreed an action plan, which is being tracked by SECAmb’s executive team and board.

The actions include improving operational performance including increasing the number of staff deployed to provide patient care, implementing a new a asset register for clinical equipment, ensuring medicines practice are understood and operated appropriately, establishing a new patient safety and quality director role, and increasing staff recruitment in NHS 111 to improve performance.

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