A DAMNING report has found that the ambulance service covering Oxfordshire is “inadequate”, with people waiting too long for treatment, untrained staff and medicines not always managed safely.

The Care Quality Commission, the independent regulator of health and social care in England, has rated South Central Ambulance Service “inadequate” - the lowest rating on their scale - following an inspection in April and May.

The inspection was triggered by concerns about the quality of governance and staff training, and the commission assessed the trust’s leadership, its emergency operations centre and the urgent and emergency care it provides to people.

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The report found that delays in reaching people who had requested emergency assistance were “frequent and prolonged”, medicines were “not always managed safely or effectively”, and that the trust was not meeting key performance standards for call and response times.

Some people were not given the necessary pain-relieving medicines and there was “insufficient attention” to infection prevention and control measures.

SCAS emergency ambulances were not always staffed by crews with the skills to provide a full complement of emergency care to people with life threatening conditions, there were no formal appraisals and not all staff were completing mandatory training.

Inspectors also said that some of the calls were not handled in line with trust processes and this resulted in delays to people receiving help.

The commission also found that staff and resources did not meet the demands put on the service and that the governance and risk processes were “not working to protect people and improve services.”

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To do the report, inspectors visited nine sites managed by the service, spoke with staff of all pay grades including volunteers, call handlers and admin staff and conducted an anonymous survey.

Overall, 19 patients taken to hospital by ambulance were asked about their experiences and the inspectors observed patients waiting in ambulances outside hospitals.

The report also stated that at the time of the inspection, SCAS was not meeting the requirements of the Health and Safety at Work Regulations because of a pigeon infestation that “had not been resolved effectively.”

SCAS said it is determined to make “rapid improvements” following the report.

Will Hancock, chief executive, said: “The CQC has highlighted some serious concerns which we must, and will, fix as a matter of urgency.

“I want to reassure everyone that we have already taken swift action, but I recognise we have more to do. Providing the best possible care to all our patients remains our top priority.

“We have an extensive improvement plan and we are committed to making things better. We will keep focused on putting things right until we and the CQC are confident all the concerns have been fixed.

“It is vital that every member of our team can raise concerns with the confidence they will be dealt with quickly and effectively. We are also working with our partners across the NHS to manage the on-going pressures so we can improve response times and hospital handover times.”

The report also found that frontline staff were “working hard to deliver compassionate care” and they were proud of their work and how they had managed throughout the pandemic.

The inspectors also said they saw and heard about examples where staff had been particularly kind and “gone the extra mile” to meet the needs of patients and their families, as well as examples of innovative practice that supported people getting the right care.


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This story was written by Anna Colivicchi, she joined the team this year and covers health stories for the Oxfordshire papers. 

Get in touch with her by emailing: Anna.colivicchi@newsquest.co.uk

Follow her on Twitter @AnnaColivicchi