AN AMBULANCE service which covers four counties has fallen short of its response target despite introducing additional measures following an ‘inadequate’ rating by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

The South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SCAS) had its rating moved from 'good' to 'inadequate' in August 2022 following an inspection in April 2022.

One of the areas the ambulance service fell short was responsiveness in which it was rated as ‘requires improvement’.

At its annual members meeting held on Wednesday, September 13, the trust published its report for 2022-23, which showed it again failed to meet its targets for responsiveness.

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The trust was also rated 'inadequate' by the CQC in safety and well-led domains. However, the domains for effective, caring, and productive use of resources had retained their rating of 'good'.

In its report last year, the CQC had identified 11 'must do' actions and 20 ‘should do’ actions for the trust.

Following this, the trust formed an improvement programme covering patient safety, culture and wellbeing, governance and well-led and performance improvement.

Although the trust said it made 'significant progress in its improvement programme', and completed 10 of the 11 'must do actions' and 19 of 20 'should do' actions, it failed to meet the targets set for responsiveness.

SCAS performed worse than England’s average in category one cases for calls about people with life-threatening injuries and illnesses. The target to get to these calls is seven minutes but SCAS took an average of nine minutes and 23 seconds. 

Hampshire Chronicle: SCAS' 999 performance for the year 2022-23.SCAS' 999 performance for the year 2022-23. (Image: SCAS annual report)

However, it did better than the national average in categories two to four.

The trust received a total of 508,401 calls under 999. A large proportion of these cases were ‘Hear and Treat’ in which an ambulance didn't have to be dispatched.

Made with Flourish

The service received most cases under category 2 (emergency calls). While the mean average target was 18 minutes, the trust on average took 34 minutes and 30 seconds to attend these cases.

Chief executive David Eltringham who spoke to members said the target for Category 2 has been set at a mean average of 30 minutes as part of the recovery trajectory.

“Once we achieve this target this year, the plan is to recover it back to 18 minutes by 2024-25,” he said.

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The report also said the demand for SCAS has gone up by 23 per cent on the pre-Covid year, 2019. 

There were 1.3 million calls answered under NHS 111 in 2022-23, in which 43 per cent were answered in 120 seconds, but 17 per cent of people abandoned their calls after 30 seconds.

The trust also saw an eight per cent rise in outpatient journey demand in 2022-23 - the total number of journeys made was 907,941.

Mr Eltringham added: “We are operating in really challenging environments from the point of view of balancing operational pressure, quality and safety needs, desire to look after our workforce and money.

“We are absolutely up for the challenge of improving our CQC rating. My thanks go to the hardworking team of staff and volunteers who do an absolutely stellar job in some very challenging circumstances.”