South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SCAS) has suspended using a service provider after it was slammed by the chief inspector of hospitals for being ‘inadequate’.
The suspension of SSG UK Specialist Ambulance Service – South will remain in place until SCAS is happy patients are safe.
The damning verdict follows the Care Quality Commission’s visit to SSG’s Wickham Road, Fareham, branch during August and September after concerns were raised over medicines, staffing and overall management, as well as one of the provider’s ambulances being involved in a road traffic collision.
SSG UK Specialist Ambulance Service – South provides both emergency and urgent care and patient transport services throughout the south east which are commissioned by local NHS trusts.
Areas of concern included emergency and urgent care, which was rated inadequate for being safe, effective and well-led and required improvement for patients’ needs.
Inspectors found that the overall management of medicines was not safe or in line with legislation.
Controlled drugs were not managed safely and as there were no regular audits SSG could not assure inspectors that controlled drugs were being managed. Records of medicines were also destroyed.
CQC deputy chief inspector of hospitals, Dr Nigel Acheson, said: ‘We are all well aware that our ambulance services are under a tremendous amount of pressure and scrutiny.
‘However, when we inspected SSG UK Specialist Ambulance Service – South in August, we were extremely concerned at the disconnect we identified between the senior team and the staff working on the front-line. We saw no sign of a clear vision and strategy and a lack of response to the concerns we had previously raised.
‘The vision for the trust was not clearly articulated by the senior team and staff. The local managers provided us with different visions for the future but not how these plans would come into action, which did not assure us that the teams were working cohesively.
‘On the basis of this inspection, we have placed this provider into special measures. That means that SSG UK Specialist Ambulance Service – South will be inspected again within six months.
‘We are currently engaging with the provider and monitoring the service very closely. If insufficient improvements have been made, we will take action in line with our enforcement procedures.’
Responding to the announcement, a spokesperson for SCAS said: ‘We utilise a number of private providers for the very reason of being able to ensure we can still provide the required level of emergency cover whenever unforeseen circumstances arise.
‘As SSG only provide a small part of our emergency 999 service, that will now be provided by other providers during the suspension. This will continue to ensure that SCAS is able to provide the additional ambulances and crews that we forecast will be required in all our operational areas over winter.’
Meanwhile SSG failed to shed any light on the report. A statement read: ‘Committed to excellence, we deliver a service that is centred around industry knowledge, environmental considerations, innovative practices and the best possible patient care.
‘We are proud of our reputation for delivering consistently high standards of service, a reputation built upon the professionalism and capabilities of our staff, the quality and reliability of our services and our number one priority is our concern for the well-being of each and every patient in our care.’