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North West Ambulance Service requires improvement, says chief inspector

Care Quality Commission revealed a number of concerns including staff numbers and recruitment as well as training
North West Ambulance Service(Image: North West Ambulance Service)

North West Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (NWAS) ‘Requires Improvement’, according to England’s Chief Inspector of Hospitals following an inspection by the Care Quality Commission.

CQC carried out an announced inspection at the trust between May 23 and 26 last year, with an unannounced inspection on June 6.

Inspectors visited three of the trust’s core services – the emergency operations centre, urgent and emergency care and patient transport services – and looked at the trust’s NHS 111 service provision.

Overall the service, which covers Cheshire, Merseyside, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Cumbria, was rated ‘Requires Improvement’.

Progress must be made in terms of ‘being safe and well-led’ although the service was rated ‘Good’ for being effective, caring and responsive.

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Professor Sir Mike Richards, the Chief Inspector of Hospitals. Photo: John Stillwell/PA Wire

 

 

 

Among the issues highlighted are:

■ Concerns around whether enough staff and with adequate training

■ Problems with staff recruitment

■ Trust procedures around vulnerable people not compliant with Mental Capacity Act code of practice

■ Concerns around how complaints are managed

■ Service must ensure all equipment used in patient care is subject to checks

Ambulances stacked up outside the Countess of Chester Hospital.

The Chief Inspector of Hospitals, Professor Sir Mike Richards, said: “This is a busy ambulance service which receives over 1.3m 999 calls each year, with emergency crews attending more than 952,000 incidents. At the time of our visit the trust had been experiencing challenges around the recruitment of staff, but it had recognised this and was taking action with regard to it.

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“It is vital that a busy service like NWAS has sufficient numbers of staff with the requisite knowledge and skills to meet patients’ needs and we will be monitoring the trust’s progress in securing additional staff as a matter of priority.”

He added: “The trust is working against a backdrop of increased pressure on all of its services and, while I am anxious to see the trust continue to monitor and improve staffing levels and share lessons learned from incidents and complaints, I’m confident that the areas of good practice can be maintained and further improvements made.”

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A North West Ambulance Service call handler(Image: North West Ambulance Service)

Inspectors identified several areas of outstanding practice.

For example, the community engagement manager was in the process of implementing an app called ‘Good SAM’. The app could be downloaded onto mobile devices to direct medically qualified responders vetted by the service to a nearby cardiac arrest.

Locations of all the defibrillators in the North West were being mapped as part of this initiative with the information made available to call centre staff.

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CQC will present the findings of its inspection to a local quality summit, including NHS commissioners, providers, regulators and other public bodies. The purpose of the quality summit is to develop a plan of action and recommendations based on the inspection team’s findings.

 

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