Bosses at Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust have been told to take action to improve some of its services after the latest inspection by an industry watchdog.
The Care Quality Commission has rated the trust as ‘requires improvement’ for its safety, effectiveness and responsiveness after its team of inspectors visited the service in January and February this year.
Infection control was one of the issues identified in the CQC report, with the general cleanliness inside ambulances and procedures for disposal of clinical waste giving inspectors “cause for concern”.
They also highlighted a lack of checks on equipment by the Hazardous Area Response Team (HART), where a “large amount of lifesaving equipment had passed its expiry date”. They reported some equipment, such as a defibrillator on a command vehicle, had not been charged so was not ready for use in an emergency.
The team also found out of date stock of medical supplies in some ambulances and at ambulance stations. The trust was also found to be failing to meet national target emergency times for responding to life-threatening conditions. During the first two quarters of 2014-2015, the service had performed worse than the 75 per cent national target rate, with less than 71 per cent of calls responded to within eight minutes. But it performed better than the England average for ‘category A calls’ - those requiring an ambulance within 19 minutes.
Inspectors said there had also been national difficulties recruiting staff, impacting on the trust’s ability to be responsive or for staff to attend training.
The patient transport service was also highlighted after patients reported struggling to reach the control centre to book or cancel appointments.
However inspectors found the trust’s services were caring - rating this category as ‘good’ - with patients being treated with compassion, dignity and respect by ambulance staff, who also explained treatment and care options well. The report also cited areas of outstanding practice including the trust’s ‘Restart a Heart’ campaign which had trained 12,000 pupils in 50 schools in Yorkshire.
The three main areas identified for improvements were: cleanliness, equipment checks and staff training.
Ellen Armistead, the CQC’s deputy chief inspector of hospitals, said the failure to adopt good hygiene and infection control standards had been known to the trust for some time, so it was “disappointing” it had not addressed the problem effectively.
She added: “Any person using the service is entitled to receive treatment and care that is consistently safe, effective, caring and responsive to their needs.”
She said the CQC will return at a later date to check improvements have been made.
Rod Barnes, chief executive of Yorkshire Ambulance Service, said he was pleased the report recognised areas of good work at the trust and that staff were caring, as well as the national recruitment shortage and resulting pressure on response times.
He said the specific concerns relating to the HART were immediately addressed and a subsequent visit by the CQC had found that the necessary action had been taken.
He added: “Yorkshire Ambulance Service is committed to delivering high quality care and continuously improving the services we provide. I am very pleased that the inspection report recognises the caring and compassionate service provided by our staff on a day to day basis. Clinically, we also score the highest of any ambulance trust in the UK on a number of key Ambulance Quality Indicators.
“We accept though, that the report raises a number of issues that we need to tackle. Most of these were issues that we were aware of as a trust and were already acting to address before the inspection. We have continued to make progress in all areas over recent months and have a clear plan of action to maintain this improvement.”