Inspection and Regulation

19.01.17

North West Ambulance Service rated as requires improvement

The CQC has rated North West Ambulance Service NHS FT (NWAS) as requires improvement following two inspections last year.

NWAS, which runs 109 ambulance stations across the north west of England along with the region’s NHS 111 service, was found to need improvement in being safe and well-led, particularly regarding staff recruitment and training.

The regulator made the decision after carrying out a focused inspection in late May 2016 followed by an unannounced inspection in June, finding most problems with the trust’s emergency and urgent care service.

The CQC’s chief inspector of hospitals, Professor Sir Mike Richards, said that at the time of the CQC’s visit the trust had been experiencing challenges in recruiting staff but had already been working to address the issue.

“This is a busy ambulance service which receives over 1.3 million 999 calls each year, with emergency crews attending more than 952,000 incidents,” said Prof Richards.

“It is vital that a busy service like NWAS has sufficient numbers of staff with the requisite knowledge and skills to meet patients’ needs and we will be monitoring the trust’s progress in securing additional staff as a matter of priority.”

At the time of the inspection, the CQC found the trust’s overall vacancy rate to be 5.7% with recruitment a particular issue in Cumbria. The trust had been managing the deficit by employing paramedics from other European countries.

The CQC also raised concerns surrounding staff training and how the trust was handling safeguarding issues and procedures along with complaints about the service.

However, inspectors found the trust Good at being effective, caring and responsive, highlighting several areas of outstanding practice such as the delivery of the trust’s Hazardous Area Response Teams and the use of an app to map the location of all public defibrillators which could be passed onto callers in an emergency.

NWAS’s chief executive Derek Cartwright accepted the CQC’s report but said that as the inspection took place almost ten months ago, the trust has already addressed the majority of the points raised by inspectors.

“The last 12 months have been extremely challenging for the organisation with unprecedented demand for our services, and it is unfortunate that by not reviewing policies and guidelines as often as we should, we are in the position we are now,” Cartwright said.

“We are determined to right this as soon as possible and ensure that staff are given adequate time to complete their mandatory training,” he added. “This will be a team effort across the whole of the organisation and I am confident that the CQC will see huge improvements when they next visit.”

Prof Richards confirmed that NWAS had been given feedback following the inspection and that the CQC will continue to monitor the trust’s progress with further inspections.

Earlier this month NWAS was served with a contract performance notice by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) after failing to meet targets for answering emergency calls.

However, the trust was still performing above the national average with all NHS services serially missing targets due to demand and resource pressures.

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