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‘Unacceptable’ private ambulance services ‘putting patients at risk’ says CQC

Private ambulance services are putting patients at risk, the CQC has said, as the NHS’s rising use of independent providers raises concerns about staff training, unregistered ambulances, and safety.

In a damning report on independent ambulance services, the CQC has urged private providers and commissioners to do more to make patients safe after its inspectors found a number of concerns. In one case, a dialysis patient was left to wander the streets.

Inspectors found that the quality and safety of services varied greatly, with many services found to have a poor understanding of governance which often led to weaker recruitment processes.

Many providers offered no or very limited staff training, and concerns were also raised over the management of medicines – with some services showing a lack of understanding around controlled drugs and the need for safe administration and storage.

The CQC gave a number of alarming cases of poor practice, such as one provider who left “an extremely confused dialysis patient” wandering the streets after the crew didn’t make sure he had got to his home safely.

In other cases, a provider was based in a hotel room and did not store controlled drugs appropriately; a paramedic left their drug bag under their bed in a B&B; and another held morphine books with pages missing and incorrect entries.

The report said some patient transport services were operating in a manner “more like a taxi” than an ambulance service.

Ellen Armistead, the CQC’s deputy chief inspector of hospitals and lead for ambulance services, said: “We remain concerned about the overall standard of care across the independent ambulance sector.

“It is wholly unacceptable for people using these services to be put at risk and where we have identified concerns we have held those providers to account by making clear where improvements must be made - using our enforcement powers where needed to protect people.”

Inspectors also raised concerns about independent ambulance services not subject to CQC regulation such as medical cover provided at events, stating that the current lack of oversight was putting people at risk.

Recognising an increasing number of independent providers providing 999 emergency responses, the CQC has urged NHS England and CCGs to ensure private ambulance services make improvements to safety and quality of care a priority.

Armistead added: “Providers have a responsibility to ensure that people within their care receive appropriate treatment, that the vehicles used to transport patients are fitted with the right equipment, that staff are appropriately trained and supported to carry out their roles, risks and incidents are reported and addressed, and that medicines are stored securely.

“This was not the case in many of the services we inspected.”

Image credit - mediaphotos


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