Concerns Over 'Dirty Ambulances' In Yorkshire

Health inspectors have raised concerns about 'dirty ambulances' in Yorkshire.

England's Chief Inspector of Hospitals has told Yorkshire Ambulance Service that it must improve the quality of some of its services following an inspection by the Care Quality Commission.

Overall, Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust has been rated as Requires Improvement.

Key Findings

During the inspection in January and February, a team of inspectors who looked closely at  looked in detail at the trust’s emergency operations centres, the emergency and urgent care service, patient transport services and the resilience service including the hazardous area response team found:

* The trust delivered services that were caring, but that work was needed to improve safety, effectiveness and responsiveness.

* Patients were treated with compassion, dignity and respect by ambulance staff.

* Staff explained treatment and care options in a way that patients could understand and involved patients in decisions.

* Patients, their relatives and others received emotional support when experiencing distressing events.

* The ambulance service was not meeting national target emergency response times for responding to life threatening conditions. During the first two quarters of 2014-2015 information showed that the trust had performed worse than the 75% national target rate, with less than 71% of calls being responded to within eight minutes. However, the trust performed consistently above the England average for category A calls requiring the arrival of an ambulance at the scene of the incident within 19 minutes.

* The trust had major difficulties in recruiting staff. National shortages of paramedics contributed to the trusts difficulty in recruiting, and this had impacted on the trust’s ability to be responsive or enable staff the time to attend training.

Infection control practices were not always followed by staff. A large number of ambulances were dirty on the outside and the general cleanliness of the inside of ambulances and procedures for disposal of clinical waste gave cause for concern.

* Inspectors were particularly concerned at the lack of checks on equipment by the hazardous area response team (HART) who provide ambulance service response to particularly hazardous or challenging incidents. A large amount of lifesaving equipment had passed its expiry date, but checks undertaken by the trust had not detected this. Inspectors also found out of date stock of medical supplies in some ambulances and at ambulance stations.

Patients using the patient transport service told inspectors they had difficulty in getting through to the control centre to book or cancel appointments.

'Requires Improvement'

The report identifies three main areas for improvement:

* The trust must ensure all ambulances and equipment are appropriately cleaned and infection control procedures are followed.
* The trust must ensure that equipment and medical supplies are checked and are fit for use.
* The trust must ensure that all staff are up to date with their mandatory training. 

The two reports which CQC publish today are based on a combination of its inspection findings, information from CQC’s Intelligent Monitoring system, and information provided by patients, the public and other organisations including Healthwatch.

On 18th August the Care Quality Commission presented its findings to a local Quality Summit, including NHS commissioners, providers, regulators and other public bodies. The purpose of the Quality Summit is to develop a plan of action and recommendations based on the inspection team’s findings.

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