South Central Ambulance Service rated inadequate over 'deteriorated' safety and care

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The service is responsible for emergency care in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire and Oxfordshire. Credit: PA Images

South Central Ambulance Service has been rated as inadequate after inspectors found that safety and care had 'deteriorated'.

A damning report from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) said that elderly patients faced long waits after falling, with one waiting for 14 hours for assistance.

"Delays in reaching people who had requested emergency assistance were frequent and prolonged," the report authors said.

Staff felt that "control lacked empathy", inspectors were told. Similar to other ambulance trusts around the country, trust data showed "deteriorating" response times to ambulance call-outs, with ambulance queues at A&E, high vacancy rates and staff sickness to blame.

CQC assessed the trust's leadership, its emergency operations centre (EOC), and the urgent and emergency care it provides to people.

Inspectors found that emergency ambulances were not always staffed with crews who had the skills to give emergency care.

And staff were "discouraged" from reporting safety incidents by local managers as "it created too much work".

"Incidents that should have been reported as serious incidents by ambulance crews were not, this included where patients had died or suffered significant harm," the authors wrote.

The CQC also said that a pigeon infestation at one resource centre in Portsmouth led to droppings covering vehicles and contaminating personal protective equipment for staff.

The service is responsible for emergency care for seven million people who live in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire and Oxfordshire.

The service says it is making improvements as a matter of urgency. Credit: ITV News Meridian

The latest inspection, in April and May, focused on the emergency care provided by the service.

To focus the trust's attention, the CQC has served a warning notice requiring immediate and significant improvements are put in place.

The ambulance service said that it had taken immediate actions including increasing staff in ambulance crews and call centres.

Will Hancock, chief executive of South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, 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."