Sussex’s ambulance service has made ‘excellent progress’ and is due to exit special measures, according to health regulators.
South East Coast Ambulance NHS Foundation Trust (SECAmb) was rated inadequate by the Care Quality Commision (CQC) in 2016 before improving to ‘requires improvement’ last year.
Following the latest inspection in June and July the NHS trust has received a ‘good’ rating.
The CQC has made a recommendation to NHS Improvement that SECAmb be taken out of special measures in a report released today (Thursday August 15).
Emergency and urgent care services were rated as outstanding overall, while the trust was rated good for safety, effectiveness, caring, responsiveness and leadership.
Fionna Moore, acting chief executive at SECAmb, said: “This positive report is testament to the huge amount of work that has been ongoing at SECAmb for the past couple of years.
“I am delighted, but not surprised, that staff have been recognised for the fantastic care they provide to patients and pleased that the big improvements we have made as a trust during the past couple of years have been acknowledged.”
Inspectors found there had been a ‘considerable shift in the culture of the organisation’ with staff at all levels describing improvements and behaviour changes throughout the trust.
Managers ‘promoted a positive culture that supported and valued staff’, while a culture of bullying and harassment ‘no longer existed to the extent it had previously within the organisation’.
Staff told inspectors about improvements and steps taken by managers at all levels to address bullying within the service and they felt confident to speak up if they observed behaviours which did not reflect the values of the trust.
Across emergency and urgent care, several areas were highlighted as ‘outstanding’ including work to reduce hospital handover times and improve services for mental health patients, with staff receiving particular praise.
Inspectors also commended the introduction of joint response units with police services and the trust’s wellbeing hub, which provides a range of resources to assist staff with their physical and mental health.
Ted Baker, England’s chief inspector of hospitals, said: “I am pleased to find South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust has made excellent progress. The trust has embedded the improvements our inspectors saw at our last inspection in November 2018 and has also met the requirements we asked for.
“Nearly three years ago, we rated the trust as Inadequate overall because of concerns relating to patient safety, the organisational culture and governance. Since that time, we have been back twice to inspect and continued to monitor the trust closely.
“The credit must go to the hard work and commitment of the staff and the current leadership team. I congratulate them on their achievements. The overall rating of good reflects a substantial improvement in the quality of services at the trust and I am happy to recommend that it is removed from special measures.”
While the trust said it is pleased that the CQC had found such significant improvements, it is aware that there are areas where further work is required.
The trust is working hard to improve its response times to less seriously ill and injured patients. While SECAmb is performing well against the national average in responding to the most serious call categories (category one and two), at times of high demand patients in lower priority categories can sometimes wait longer than they should.
Recent weeks have seen an improvement in the trust’s response times to these patients and it is committed to further improvements.
It is also committed to improving staffing levels, including in its emergency operations centres.
David Astley, chair of SECAmb, added: “I would like to thank everyone who has worked so hard to get SECAmb to where it is today. Every single member of staff and our volunteers contribute to the assessment made by the CQC and everyone should be very proud of what has been achieved.
“We are very aware that there remains a lot of hard work ahead and we will expect to deliver even higher standards in the years ahead.”
SECAmb employs more than 3,000 staff across 60 sites, more than half of whom are clinicians.