The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is calling on independent ambulance services, commissioners and the wider system to do more to make sure patients are safe, following concerns identified during its inspections.
While the regulator has seen evidence of good practice and improvements made by some individual services, concerns remain about how safely and effectively independent ambulance providers are caring for people using their services.
In this national report the CQC presents an analysis of the findings from its comprehensive inspection programme of independent ambulance services in England.
Independent ambulance providers mainly offer specialist patient transport services and non-emergency responses. However, an increasing number also provide 999 emergency responses to support NHS ambulance trusts routinely or during times of peak demand.
CQC’s report reveals that the quality and safety of independent ambulance services varies greatly. Many services inspected had a poor understanding of governance which often led to weak recruitment processes. Checks to ensure that staff had the appropriate employment references, Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) certificates, and driving licence categories (e.g. to operate heavier vehicles) were not being enforced consistently.
In addition, many providers offered either no or very limited staff training. This was particularly apparent in relation to emergency driver response training to ensure the skills required to transport a patient using blue lights or sirens, training to equip staff to recognise and escalate safeguarding concerns, and to effectively support patients with mental health needs.