Sussex ambulance trust ‘taking all the flak’ for problems in NHS

SECAmb crew

SECAmb crew

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Sussex’s ambulance trust is ‘taking all the flak’ for wider problems in the NHS, according to one East Sussex councillor.

Both the previous chief executive and chairman of South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SECAmb) resigned over a controversial pilot which led to the delay of some ambulance response times during the winter of 2014/15, where calls coming into NHS 111 were re-triaged to the 999 service.

Meanwhile after a recent inspection of the service by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in May, health regulators flagged up a number of issues warranting ‘immediate further investigation and attention from the trust’.

Last month SECAmb admitted it was ‘failing to reach some patients as quickly as it would like’ in the face of rising demand, delays at hospitals, and staff shortages.

Sir Peter Dixon, interim Chairman at SECAmb, told West Sussex county councillors last Thursday (June 30) that during conversations with the CQC and NHS England they had suggested putting the trust into ‘voluntary special measures’ as this could lead to more money and support for SECAmb. He said the two organisations were ‘thinking about it’.

On the same day Geraint Davies, acting chief executive at SECAmb, appeared before East Sussex Health Overview and Scrutiny Commission to update councillors on their improvement plans.

He explained that the trust was recruiting a new substantive chief executive, a process which was expected to take between four and six months, and he ruled himself out of the job.

Mike Turner, a Hastings borough councillor on HOSC, said: “The ambulance service has my utmost sympathy. It seems they are taking all the flak. They are having to do all the dirty work.”

Mr Davies said they were setting out plans to improve clinical standards, governance arrangements, and the performance of the 999 and 111 services, while their remedial action plan was being reviewed by SECAmb’s board each month.

The trust has appointed external consultants to help change the organisation’s culture, as the CQC had received reports from staff of a ‘culture of bullying and harassment’ at SECAmb.

Mr Davies explained that they had already identified problems around this before the inspection and had told the CQC about the issues during their visit.

He said they were striving to be more open and transparent when communicating with staff, and asking for their views and opinions.

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