Bosses at Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust have been told to take action to improve after the latest inspection by an industry watchdog.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has rated the trust as “requires improvement” for its safety, effectiveness and responsiveness after a team of inspectors visited the service in January and February.
Infection control was one of the issues identified, with the general cleanliness inside ambulances and procedures for disposal of clinical waste giving inspectors “cause for concern”.
They also highlighted the lack of equipment checks by the hazardous area response team, where a “large amount of lifesaving equipment had passed its expiry date”. Out-of-date medical supplies were also found in some ambulances and at ambulance stations.
It found the trust was failing to meet national target emergency times for responding to life-threatening conditions. During the first two quarters of 2014-2015, the service had performed worse than the 75 per cent national target rate, with less than 71 per cent of calls responded to within eight minutes.
But it performed better than average for category A calls’ - those requiring an ambulance within 19 minutes. Inspectors acknowledged national difficulties in recruiting staff, impacting on the trust’s ability to be responsive or for staff to attend training.
However they found the trust’s services were caring - rating this category as good’ - with patients treated with compassion, dignity and respect by the trust.
It added that 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.
Patients using the patient transport service told inspectors they had difficulty in getting through to the control centre to book or cancel appointments.
Chief executive of Yorkshire Ambulance Service, Rod Barnes, said, “We are pleased that our services were consistently acknowledged as being caring which is excellent news for our hard-working staff as this is fundamental to what we do.
“We are also pleased that the commission recognised the many areas of good work going on within the trust including the international accreditation of our 999 call centre and some areas of outstanding practice such as our Restart a Heart initiative which trains thousands of children annually in essential life-saving skills, our work with volunteers and community first responders, our innovative mental health support within the emergency operations centre, as well as our green initiatives.
“However, we clearly recognise that we have more work to do in some areas. The commission highlighted specific concerns about equipment and consumables in the Hazardous Area Response Team (HART) and these were addressed immediately during the inspection. The inspectors revisited the unit in January and found that the necessary action had been taken.”