Surrey’s Ambulance Service Taken Out Of Special Measures

South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb), the ambulance trust covering Surrey, Sussex, Kent and North East Hampshire, has welcomed the new report from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) which had a much-improved outlook on the Trust rating it “Good” overall and its Urgent and Emergency Care service as “Outstanding” – we await publication of the full report after the inspection took place across June and July.

In the wake of that report, NHS Improvement announced today that the Trust should exit special measures.

The inspection rated all of the inspection areas (safe, effective, caring, responsive, well-led) as “Good” overall. The NHS 111 service has also retained its “Good” rating with inspectors saying it delivered “effective care and treatment”.

A Testament to the Staff

The Trust’s acting Chief Executive, Dr Fiona Moore, said that the report was:

“a 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.”

Several areas within the trusts emergency and urgent care were acknowledged as outstanding including work to reduce hospital handover times and improve services for mental health patients – with particular praise being given to staff. The report also commended the Trust’s Wellbeing Hub which has been set up to support both the physical and mental health of the staff.

The CQC spoke positively about how:

  • Staff treated patients with compassion and kindness, respecting their privacy and dignity and taking account of individual needs
  • Staff were highly motivated
  • Complaints were treated seriously
  • Staff were supported after traumatic experiences
  • Leadership change had had a positive impact on the organisation.

Hard Work Ahead

A SECAmb spokesman said that that they were still aware of the work that was still required. He said:

“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.”

Trust Chair, David Astley said: “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.”

How did the trust get put in Special Measures?

Back in September 2016 a CQC report rated the Trust as inadequate recommending it be placed in to special measures. NHS Improvement acted on the recommendation. Inspectors has raised serious safety concerns saying that staff were unable to deliver a safe level of service because of the uncertainty caused by changes of leadership at the trust. The Chief Executive at the time had gone on voluntary leave in June and the Chair had resigned after it emerged 111 calls were being downgraded so the trust could meet performance targets after a new protocol had been secretly introduced.

Follow up inspections revealed that the Trust was still not performing, that it did not have the staff to review the impact, and it was still failing to meet national performance times. The performance of the staff was praised as they had been able to provide the people of the South East with an Ambulance service despite the senior leadership, not because of it.

A further inspection in 2017 noted serious improvements, but recommended the trust remain in Special Measures as there was still more to do.

This latest report has been welcomed by the Trust itself, and will no doubt be welcomed by people living under SECAmb’s coverage as the ambulance service, despite having more to improve on, has manged to get itself back on track.