North East Ambulance service given formal warning after failing to meet national standards

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THE North East Ambulance Service has been issued with a formal warning from the health watchdog after it failed to meet four out of six national standards.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has told ambulance trust it wants to see improvements to ensure patients receive the level of services required.

It follows an unannounced inspection of the trust’s services in February.

Concerns raised by the CQC included some medicines not always kept safely or securely in ambulance stations.

And criminal record-style checks had not been completed for all staff.

The review discovered 57 frontline ambulance workers had unknown criminal convictions due to the lack of proper background checks.

The ambulance trust says they were mainly for minor offences with the oldest dating back more than 38 years.

After risk assessments were carried 54 of the staff returned to work.

Two are still off work for unrelated issues and the other is on alternative duties until their risk assessment is complete.

Emergency ambulance crews and dispatch staff told inspectors work pressures meant they had difficulty in accessing meaningful supervision or formal appraisals and operational work needed more priority.

And inspectors found shortfalls in human resource governance, complaint management and medication audits.

Julie Walton, CQC head of hospital inspections for the North-East, said: “The issues we identified are a real concern and we have told the trust where further improvements must be made to ensure patients receive the service they are entitled to expect.”

Simon Featherstone, North East Ambulance Service chief executive, said: “The findings in this report are disappointing, but I am pleased that our staff have been recognised by the CQC inspectors for the wonderful and caring job they do for our patients.

“We recognise that some of the issues highlighted in the inspectors’ report require investment in frontline leadership, which is why we have taken the decision to plan a £1.7m deficit in our budget this year, the first in the trust’s history, to invest in recruiting team leaders to support the front line.”