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Inter-County Ambulance Services Limited Requires improvement

We are carrying out a review of quality at Inter-County Ambulance Services Limited. We will publish a report when our review is complete. Find out more about our inspection reports.

Reports


Inspection carried out on 11 June 2019

During a routine inspection

Inter- County Ambulance Service Limited is operated by Inter- County Ambulance Service Ltd. The service primarily provides a patient transport service. However, as part of the service, they provide transfers of patients who required critical care or high dependency care and transfers of patients who were receiving end of life care which is reported on in the emergency and urgent care core service.

The service also provides a repatriation service. Repatriation services are not registered with the CQC, and so this part of the service was not assessed during this inspection. The service is staffed by trained paramedics, ambulance technicians, ambulance care assistants and first responders

We inspected this service using our comprehensive inspection methodology. We carried out the announced part of the inspection on 11 June 2019.

To get to the heart of patients’ experiences of care and treatment, we ask the same five questions of all services: are they safe, effective, caring, responsive to people's needs, and well-led?

Throughout the inspection, we took account of what people told us and how the provider understood and complied with the Mental Capacity Act 2005.

The main service provided by this service was patient transport service. The management and leadership of the service is the same for both the emergency and urgent care service and the patient transport service. All staff deliver both the emergency and urgent care service and the patient transport service. Where our findings on patient transport service – for example, management arrangements – also apply to the emergency and urgent care service, we have not repeated the information but cross-referred to the patient transport service core service.

We rated it as Requires improvement overall.

  • The delivery of high-quality care was not assured by the leadership, governance or culture.

  • Leaders did not demonstrate they fully understood and managed the priorities and issues the service faced. They were not always aware of the risks, issues and challenges in the service. For example, they did not have a process to identify and manage operational risks of the service.

  • Leaders did not show they were clear about their accountability for quality. The service did not carry out audits to evaluate the quality of the service they provided.The service did not carry out audits of the quality patient record forms. The service did not review or audit information that had been collected about patient journeys, including time of arrival of pick-up of the patient compared to the booked time for pick up, the length of time the crew had to wait for the patient to be made ready for the journey and time the patient arrived at their destination compared to the planned time. Records of meetings held by the leadership team did not include review of the quality of the service provided.

  • The management of medicines was not safe.The process for recording stock management and disposal of medicines was inaccurate and did not provide an audit trail to accurately detail the amount of medicines held at the service.The service had no formal approval of the patient group directions.The management of medicines policy did not support safe administration of medicines.The policy gave incorrect information about which staff could administer medicines.

  • Leaders did not operate an effective governance process or use systems to manage performance and risk effectively and support improvements to the service. We identified risks to the environment and running of the service that had either not been identified, or if identified processes had not been put in place for staff to follow to lessen the risk.There was no effective process to ensure policies and procedures were reviewed to provide clear guidance. Some policies did not relate to the service provided, describing roles and staff groups that did not exist. The service did not evaluate and use feedback from people who used the service to support improvement of the service.

  • There were gaps in the management and support arrangements for staff, such as appraisal and supervision.

However,

  • The service had enough staff to care for patients and keep them safe. Staff had training in key skills and understood how to protect patients from abuse. Staff assessed risks to patients, acted on them and kept good care records. Staff worked well together for the benefit of patients. Staff assessed risks to patients, acted on them. Staff worked well together for the benefit of patients.

  • The service controlled infection risk well.

  • The service planned care to meet the needs of local people and took account of patients’ individual needs. People could access the service when they needed it. The service was available seven days a week.

  • Staff felt respected, supported and valued. They were focused on the needs of patients receiving care.

Following this inspection, we told the provider that it must take some actions to comply with the regulations and that it should make other improvements, even though a regulation had not been breached, to help the service improve. We also issued the provider with two requirement notices that affected emergency and urgent services and patient transport services. Details are at the end of the report.

Nigel Acheson

Deputy Chief Inspector of Hospitals, London and South.

Inspection carried out on 9 November 2016 and an unannounced inspection on 21 November 2016

During a routine inspection

Inter-County Ambulance Services Limited is an independent medical transport provider based in Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire. The service provides patient transport, medical cover at events, and a repatriation service. Services are staffed by trained paramedics, ambulance technicians, ambulance care assistants and first responders.

We inspected this service using our comprehensive inspection methodology. We carried out the announced part of the inspection on 9 November 2016, along with an unannounced visit to the station on 21 November 2016.

To get to the heart of patients’ experiences of care and treatment, we ask the same five questions of all services: are they safe, effective, caring, responsive to people's needs, and well-led?

Throughout the inspection, we took account of what people told us and how the provider understood and complied with the Mental Capacity Act 2005.

We regulate independent ambulance services but we do not currently have a legal duty to rate them. We highlight good practice and issues that service providers need to improve and take regulatory action as necessary.

We found the following issues that the service provider needs to improve:

  • The systems and processes in place for incident reporting was not robust and there was no evidence of staff learning from incidents.

  • While staff had a clear understand of what constituted abuse and had received training the arrangements for safeguarding vulnerable adults and children were not robust. This was because there was a not a clear pathway for staff to follow to report concerns. This had been addressed by the unannounced inspection, when a flow chart had been implemented.

  • The service had a medicine management policy. However, they did not have any medicine protocols to support staff to administer medicines safely. On the unannounced inspection, a policy had been introduced which gave clear guidance, which medications different grades of staff could administer.

  • There were no formal systems in place to ensure staff were suitably appraised or received clinical supervision.

  • There were limited policies and guidelines to support staff to provide evidence based care and treatment. The service acknowledged this and was working to implement new policies.

  • There were no effective governance arrangements in place to evaluate the quality of the service and improve delivery. Audits were not undertaken and therefore learning did not take place from review of procedures and practice.

  • There was no formal risk register in place at the service and therefore we had no assurances that risks were being tracked and managed, with plans to mitigate risks.

  • A vision and strategy for the service had not been developed. The service did not formally engage all staff, to ensure that the views of all staff were noted and acted on.

  • There was limited provision on vehicles to support people who were unable to communicate verbally or who did not speak English.

  • The service had not had a CQC registered manager in post for over six months. They had submitted an application but remained unregistered. Since the inspection, we have received notification that the compliance manager is now registered with the Care Quality Commission as the registered manager.

However, we also found the following areas of good practice:

  • Staff followed infection prevention and control procedures to reduce the spread of infection to patients. They kept vehicles clean, tidy and well stocked. The system for servicing vehicles was effective, with accurate records kept.

  • Staff working for the service were competent in their role and followed national guidance when providing care and treatment to patients. They knew when to escalate concerns so patients’ needs were responded to promptly.

  • The service utilised its vehicles and resources effectively to meet patients’ needs Staff were able to plan appropriately for patient journeys using the information provided through the booking system.

  • Staff we spoke with were aware of their responsibilities regarding duty of candour and understood the importance of being open and transparent with patients when things go wrong.

  • Recruitment processes were in place so all staff employed had the experience and competence required for their role, together with pre-employment checks had been carried out.

  • The service had a system for handling, managing and monitoring complaints and concerns.

  • The service took prompt action where issues were found at the announced inspection and this was supported by our findings at the unannounced.

Information on our key findings and action we have asked the provider to take are listed at the end of the report.

Professor Sir Mike Richards

Chief Inspector of Hospitals

Inspection carried out on 17 December 2013

During an inspection to make sure that the improvements required had been made

This was a follow up inspection to check compliance with a warning notice in relation to the recruitment of staff and a compliance action in relation to the assessing and monitoring of the quality of the service provided. Due to the nature of the service provided we were not able to speak to people who used the service. Their feedback was not required to check compliance as the areas of non compliance identified at the previous inspection were in relation to records and systems.

Recruitment practices had improved and staff had the required recruitment checks in place. This ensured people were cared for by staff who were suitably recruited.

Quality auditing systems had been developed and daily practices were monitored. This meant people could be confident of receiving quality care.

We spoke with the director, manager and an ambulance crew member. The staff were positive about the changes that had been made and the benefits to the team and people who used the service.

Inspection carried out on 9 October 2013

During an inspection to make sure that the improvements required had been made

This was a follow up inspection to check compliance with previous compliance actions in relation to infection control, requirements relating to workers and assessing and monitoring the quality of service provision. We were not able to speak to people using the service and their feedback was not required to check compliance in these outcome areas.

We saw an infection control risk assessment and audit were in place. Staff had commenced infection control e learning and the service had recently purchased a customised hygiene system for cleaning the inside of the vehicles. This ensured the risks of cross infection were reduced and managed.

Recruitment records did not evidence that the required recruitment checks had been carried out on prior to staff commencing work with the organisation. This was a continued non compliance that had not been addressed and had the potential to put people at risk.

Some quality monitoring systems were in place. These were not sufficient to ensure all areas of practice were monitored to ensure people were provided with a safe, good quality service. This was a continued non compliance that had not been addressed to improve and monitor the quality of the service.

There had been a recent change of director in the company. We spoke with the director, office staff and two ambulance staff. Staff were positive about the change in director. They felt supported whilst recognising improvements that needed to be made.

Inspection carried out on 5 June 2013

During an inspection to make sure that the improvements required had been made

This was a private ambulance service which undertook mainly private work, with some NHS work. This was a follow up inspection to check compliance with a previous compliance action in relation to infection control and a warning notice in relation to staff training and support. We were not able to speak to people using the service and their feedback was not required to check compliance in these areas.

We saw practices in relation to infection control had improved. Vehicle cleaning schedules were in place, monitored and being further developed. An infection control risk assessment and audit tool had been implemented but not yet completed. Infection control e learning training had been sourced but not yet completed by staff.

We spoke to the registered manager and two ambulance staff. Staff told us they were inducted into their roles and opportunities for training had improved. They confirmed they had an appraisal and were being supported in their roles.

We saw recruitment records were disorganised and lacked evidence of the required recruitment checks to safeguard people.

We observed that quality monitoring systems were not in place in line with the organisations policy to ensure that the service was effectively managed and monitored.

Inspection carried out on 6 February 2013

During a routine inspection

This was a private ambulance service which undertook mainly private work, with some NHS work. It had three ambulances and employed five full time staff and nine part time staff. We were not able to speak to people who used the service. We saw written feedback from users of the service. The feedback was positive and included comments such as "overall excellent service".

Systems were in place to obtain consent and to promote the safety and well being of the person. We saw patient records were maintained. Staff were clear of their responsibilities for completing those and for formally handing over the person at the relevant drop off point.

Policies were in place to safeguard people. Staff were clear of their responsibilities to report and act on any suspicions of potential abuse.

The ambulances were clean and well maintained. Infection control risk assessments, audits and records of cleaning the vehicles were not in place to identify and prevent potential risks of cross infection.

We spoke with the owner, registered manager and four ambulance staff. Staff were clear of their roles and felt supported in those roles. Staff said they were responsible for maintaining and updating their own training. They were required to keep a record of their training to maintain their registration. We saw staff were not being formally trained and updates in training were not provided. Staff were not supervised or appraised in their roles either to benefit people.