Lancashire’s ambulance service has been ordered to improve its safety standards.
North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust received a ‘requires improvement’ rating in the safety and leadership categories from the Care Quality Commission following an inspection in May and June 2016.
On the whole it is a safe place to work but there are issues with reporting incidents and investigating them
High levels of staff vacancies were singled out by inspectors as a problem, with 16.2 per cent of all full-time equivalent posts being vacant.
Last month, it emerged the trust has the highest level of vacancies of any in England and Wales.
However in the same inspection, NWAS was given a ‘good’ rating for being effective, caring and responsive.
Neil Cosgrove, paramedic and Unite representative for NWAS, said he was ‘disappointed’ in the outcome of the report but it was ‘expected’.
“On the whole it is a safe place to work but there are issues with reporting incidents and investigating them,” he said. “Staff are having to choose between doing the paperwork or going out and doing the job, treating patients.
“It’s wearing staff down because they feel like they’re under the microscope all the time. We need more staff, funding and resources. Staff are at breaking point.”
Tony Dunn, emergency medical technician and GMB representative for NWAS, said government funding cuts were hampering efforts to imprve the service.
“Our new chief executive Derek Cartwright is making good inroads but change doesn’t happen overnight,” he said.
“He’s come up from the bottom and knows the job inside out.
“One of the main problems is not recording data but there are always outstanding incidents.
“You’re always going to choose the patient but the paperwork needs to be done so you end up doing hours of overtime. We’re working at 100 per cent, there’s no-one to pick up the slack.”
UNISON NWAS branch secretary Jeff Gorman said staff shortages were a nationwide issue.
NWAS Chief Executive, Derek Cartwright said he was pleased with the ‘good’ ratings in three categories and ‘the majority’ of points highlighted for improvement are already being addressed.
He added: “Our staff work hard every day to do the very best they can for patients – from saving lives to offering comfort to relatives, and they should be very proud that this has been recognised.
“The last 12 months have been extremely challenging for the organisation with unprecedented demand for our services, and it is unfortunate that by not reviewing policies and guidelines as often as we should, we are in the position we are now.
“We are determined to right this as soon as possible.”