Health watchdog critical of East of England Ambulance Service over response times

More than 1,200 people have applied for the East of England Ambulance Service Trust's paramedic trai

More than 1,200 people have applied for the East of England Ambulance Service Trust's paramedic training programme - Credit: Archant

The East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) has been criticised in the latest Care Quality Commission (CQC) report after failing to meet response times to life-threatening 999 calls.

Despite the ambulance service making “significant improvements” according to the December inspection, targets were not met with regard to response times and staffing numbers.

For the most serious incidents, ambulances must respond to at least 75% of calls in eight minutes but the Trust has recorded a figure of 74.4% for 2012/13.

Ambulance services must also attend 95% of calls within 19 minutes but the EEAST’s performance for the same period was 93.3%.

The CQC, a health watchdog which assess whether care services are meeting essential standards, found action is needed to address ‘care and welfare of people who use services’ and ‘staffing’.

The report stated: “People received good quality care from ambulance crews, however the Trust had not been able to implement the improvements needed to respond more quickly to people in potentially life-threatening situations. We have judged that this has a moderate impact on people who use the service, and have told the provider to take action.”

The EEAST did not hit any response targets for 2012/13 and was forecasted to underachieve again in 2013/14, with the CQC giving the Trust a month to compose an action plan to improve its performance.

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The CQC inspection showed the Trust met the criteria in five out of seven areas, safety, availability and suitability of equipment, requirements relating to workers, supporting workers, assessing and monitoring the quality of service provision and complaints.

The report also highlighted that since the last inspection waits for ambulances for people in potentially-life threatening instances were decreasing, complaints had reduced and there had been a drop in staff sickness levels.

EEAST chief executive Dr Anthony Marsh said: “This is an important report as it acknowledges the improvements that have already been made. But it also highlights the need to reduce long response times and ambulance back up delays to patients.

“We will be looking to recruit more graduate paramedics and provide additional training for existing staff. This, along with other actions we have put in place such as our Hospital Liaison Ambulance Officer schemes to help speed up patient handovers at hospitals, will improve patient care, reduce ambulance delays and be beneficial for staff.”

The Trust employs around 4,000 staff alongside 1,500 volunteers who together deal with more than 900,000 999 calls a year and one million non-emergency patient journeys.

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