Care Quality Commission (CQC) is calling on independent ambulance services in England to ensure they care for their patients safely after its inspections to date have found significant concerns.
To date 39 reports on independent ambulance providers have been published and enforcement action has been taken against 25 providers.
Specific concerns identified by the CQC include:
- A lack of attention to fundamental safety processes and variable standards in relation to governance and risk management.
- Problems with the recruitment processes, including failures to ensure staff have had their DBS checks or that they hold the correct driving licence categories and expectations (e.g. to operate heavier vehicles or to have had blue-light training).
- Staff not always recognising or escalating safeguarding concerns and a lack of appropriate safeguarding training.
- Concerns around incident reporting including poor reporting systems and limited evidence of learning from incidents.
- Infection prevention and control standards not always been followed and concerns about vehicle and equipment maintenance.
- Concerns regarding medicines management, including their storage on the vehicles.
- Patients often finding it difficult to make a complaint about their care and a failure to use of complaints as a learning opportunity.
Prof Sir Mike Richards, Chief Inspector of Hospitals at the Care Quality Commission, said “Providers have a responsibility to ensure the safety and appropriate treatment of the people within their care. Having inspected around 20 per cent of the independent ambulance providers registered in England so far, we are concerned that some may be putting patients at risk.
"Patient safety must be a priority at all times. Vehicles used to transport patients must be clean and fitted with the right equipment, staff must be appropriately trained and supported to carry out their roles effectively, and medicines must be stored securely and administered by staff trained to do so.
"We know that there are some independent ambulance services doing all these things and providing very good care, but unfortunately, our emerging findings suggest that this is not always the case. Where we have found concerns we have held those providers to account and have been clear where improvements must be made. We expect providers to deliver on their commitment to provide safe, high-quality and compassionate care and we will do everything within our powers to ensure this happens."