South Central Ambulance Service was handed an ‘inadequate’ rating by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) last week.
The CQC has demanded immediate improvement from the higher-ups at the service, while also praising front-line staff for their tireless dedication.
SCAS says it is “determined to make rapid improvements” following the damning CQC report.
The downgrading of the ambulance service’s CQC rating stems back to safeguarding concerns that were raised towards the end of last year.
Inspectors found safeguarding policies at South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust were “ambiguous or incorrect” which led to problems not always being identified.
Some of the policies being used were also out of date, with domestic abuse incidents referring to the Home Office definition from 2013, rather than the Domestic Abuse Act (2021).
Amanda Williams, who led the CQC inspection at the time, said: “The policy statements were not deliverable because of the size of the region covered by the trust and the limited resources within the safeguarding team.
“The [domestic abuse] policy was not using current legislation as a basis from which to protect people from harm.”
No official safeguarding meetings had taken place either, with no minutes produced for any meetings.
During the recent heatwave, the ambulance service declared a critical incident because of pressures on its services, warning there could be an increase to response times.
Will Hancock, SCAS 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 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.
“It is vital 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 inspection, in April 2022, covered the CQC’s well-led domain and the Emergency Operations Centre and Urgent and Emergency Care services.
Patient Transport Services and 111 were not inspected.
The domains for effective, caring and productive use of resources retained their rating of good. Responsiveness was rated as requires improvement. The Safety and Well-led domains were rated inadequate.