East of England Ambulance Service out of special measures after 'significant improvements'

Oxygen supplies can run low when ambulances cannot offload patients to A&E quickly.
The trust has finally left special measures Credit: ITV News

An ambulance service once slammed for its culture of bullying and abuse has finally left special measures.

The East of England Ambulance Service (EEAST) was placed into special measures, now known as the National Recovery Support Programme, back in 2020.

It followed a damning report by the health watchdog The Care Quality Commission (CQC), which found staff and patients were being put at risk by poor leadership and a failure to tackle serious allegations such as sexual harassment.

The CQC inspected the trust between 25 June and 15 July 2020, after whistleblowers raised concerns over sexual abuse, inappropriate behaviour and harassment. 

But on Tuesday NHS England said it had recognised the "significant improvements" that EEAST has made.

The latest CQC report, published in July 2022, showed significant improvements in long-standing cultural issues.

The report recognised the trust’s efforts to improve leadership, culture, and safety for staff, but also highlighted a "culture of uncertainty" and slow response times.

Since February 2023, the CQC has also lifted four conditions on EEAST’s licence. There are three remaining which it hopes will be lifted soon.

The CQC recognised the trust has expanded its safeguarding team. It also strengthened its safeguarding policies and HR processes.

Tom Abell, the chief executive of EEAST, described the move as "a major milestone". Credit: EEAST

An improvement in the way allegations are handled was also recognised. This happened after processes were strengthened and standardised.

Training has also been provided for managers investigating allegations. This improves the quality of decision-making and monitoring of any themes and reduces the risk of similar cases in the future, said the trust.

The trust has also been recognised for its work in improving the visibility of the Freedom to Speak Up Guardian, making it easier for people to give feedback and raise concerns.

NHS England has now confirmed EEAST will leave the Recovery Support Programme with immediate effect.

Chief executive Tom Abell said: “This is a major milestone for EEAST, and it’s all down to the hard work and commitment of our people.

“We have made much progress since I joined the trust over two years ago. When I joined, I made clear it would take time to tackle longstanding cultural and organisational issues.

“Although we have made good progress, we know there is still work to do to provide consistently excellent service to our communities.”

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