Ambulance boss to be questioned on ‘recovery plan’ by county councillors

SECAmb crew

SECAmb crew

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Sussex ambulance service’s chairman is due to be questioned on the trust’s ‘recovery plan’ by county councillors later this week.

South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SECAmb) revealed 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 earlier this month.

This comes shortly after an inspection by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in early May.

In its initial letter the health regulator highlighted areas warranting ‘immediate further investigation and attention from the trust’, including complaints from staff about a ‘culture of bullying and harassment’ at SECAmb.

It also follows a controversial pilot in the winter of 2014/15 that delayed responses to some incidents, which allowed clinicians extra time to ‘re-triage’ calls from the NHS 111 service which had been transferred to the 999 team.

Sir Peter Dixon, interim chairman at SECAmb, will answer questions on the ‘Unified Recovery Plan’ (URP) from members of West Sussex County Council’s Health and Adult Social Care Select Committee (HASC) on Thursday June 30.

The URP describes 2015/16 as the ‘most challenging year for SECAmb since its formation’ as the trust had ‘failed’ to deliver expected operational performance and clinical effectiveness.

It added: “The annual plan for 2016/17 is therefore based on a small number of clearly-defined priorities which will ensure the organisation is focused on improving the delivery of the core services it provides and which will result in the best possible outcomes for the population served.”

The report explained that activity has increased month-on-month, with significant spikes ‘outside of control limits’ in December 2015 and March 2016. These ‘extreme peaks in demand’ were not able to be managed through existing escalation mechanisms and capacity, according to the report.

One of the factors for SECAmb’s performance was the number of delays to hospital handovers had increased significantly, with almost 46,000 ambulance hours lost in 2015/16, and 7,000 hours lost in March 2016 alone.

The report explains that ‘at present call answer time is significantly above average’ due to staff shortages and the impact of response delays, meaning staff are on the phone longer.

SECAMb is moving to a new regional HQ and Emergency Operations Centre in Crawley in 2017, replacing three current offices and the Banstead and Lewes EOCs.

Senior representatives from Coperforma will also be at the HASC meeting to discuss the performance of the patient transport service since the company took over from SECAmb in April.

Since then patients have been affected by numerous incidents of crews either not turning up or showing up late, while one of Coperforma’s sub-contractors had several of its ambulances repossessed by bailiffs earlier this month.

Bryan Turner, chairman of HASC, said: “These are two really important topics that we know directly affect residents. It is important we review and scrutinise these services and the actions they are undertaking to make sure residents are getting the best service.”

The select committee takes place at 2.15pm at Chichester’s County Hall.

The meeting will also be webcast via WSCC’s website at http://www.westsussex.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/229743

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