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22.03.17

CQC voices concern as 65% of independent ambulances given requirement notices

The CQC has voiced “significant concerns” about independent ambulances after inspections of these services identified widespread and common problems.

Since April 2015, 70 CQC inspections were carried out of England’s independent ambulance providers – around a fifth of registered services – and found evidence of poor practice with medicine management, cleanliness and infection control, as well as a lack of appropriate employment checks.

Independent ambulance providers, which includes charities and private firms, work on behalf of the NHS and provide services such as specialist patient transport and non-emergency response, and are also used to ease pressure on NHS ambulances during peak demand times

CQC has published 39 reports about these inspections so far, and out of these, a huge proportion – 25 providers, or almost 65% – were issued ‘requirement notices’ ordering them to improve their service. This includes two cancellations.

In a letter, the inspection body has now demanded that independent ambulance providers across the country make drastic efforts to improve, warning that providers yet to be inspected will be scrutinised to the same level of detail to ensure patients are being given safe and effective care everywhere.

“We have found problems with the safety of the healthcare provided to people who use independent ambulance services,” the letter read.

“In these instances, we have taken appropriate enforcement action against the providers to protect the people under their care. However, we are concerned that these might not be isolated findings.

“We will therefore pay particular attention to these issues at all future inspections and urge you to consider any actions you may need to take to address these issues in your service.”

Prof Sir Mike Richards, chief inspector of hospitals at the CQC, said that providers had a responsibility to ensure the safety and appropriate treatment of the people within their care, adding that the results of the inspections so far were a cause for concern.

"Patient safety must be a priority at all times,” he argued. “Vehicles used to transport patients must be clean and fitted with the right equipment, staff must be appropriately trained and supported to carry out their roles effectively, and medicines must be stored securely and administered by staff trained to do so.”

Prof Richards did acknowledge that some independent services were reaching requirements and doing what was expected of them, but said it was unfortunate that this was not always the case.

“Where we have found concerns we have held those providers to account and have been clear where improvements must be made,” he added.

“We expect providers to deliver on their commitment to provide safe, high-quality and compassionate care and we will do everything within our powers to ensure this happens.”

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