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CQC inspectors highlight drive to transform clinical practice by South Central Ambulance Service

20 September 2016
South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust
  • Media,
  • Ambulance services

England's Chief Inspector of Hospitals has rated South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust as Good following an inspection by the Care Quality Commission.

Overall the trust’s emergency operations centre, patient transport and NHS111 service were rated Good – although the emergency and urgent care services were rated Requires Improvement. Full reports have been published on this website.

The trust provides emergency medical services across Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Hampshire. During the inspection in May, a team of inspectors and specialist advisors visited 20 ambulance stations, the northern and southern operations centres operations centres and 10 acute hospitals.

In the report which is published today inspectors highlight the trust's work with partners in the NHS to transform care delivery and improve outcomes for patients including the use of smartphones for assessing patients remotely, end of life care to support patients in their own homes, and improved access to pharmacists.

Prof Edward Baker, Deputy Chief Inspector of Hospitals in CQC's South region, said:

“Well over four million people rely on South Central Ambulance Service to be there when they need them. The trust has a clear vision to co-ordinate its services so that people receive the right care at the right time - including care closer to home.

“It is to the trust's credit that it performs above the England average for the number of patients managed without need for transport to hospital. Many services are being introduced to manage demand, avoid hospital admissions and refer patients to alternative non-urgent pathways of care.

“While we found that staff were proud to work for the organisation, there were pressures on the service which were affecting staff morale. The trust is affected by the national shortage of paramedics, and many staff have been working long hours, some without breaks. Through no fault of the ambulance services, its vehicles are often facing prolonged delays at some acute hospitals’ emergency departments. For people needing an urgent response, the consequences can be serious.

“Our inspectors have found that some areas where improvements are needed. At the time of our inspection the average time to respond to emergency calls was worse than the national average and the trust had some of the longest call waiting times, of over 3 seconds over the national average. We will continue to monitor the trust’s performance and we will return at a later date to check on progress.”

Across the trust, the inspection team found several areas of outstanding practice including:

  • A smartphone triage app had been produced in conjunction with the Wessex Trauma Network. This meant clinicians could use the triage tool to identify if their patient needed to bypass a local hospital and be conveyed directly to a major trauma centre, and which one was the closest.
  • The trust had introduced specialist paramedics to support patients to manage their own health conditions at home without the need for hospital admission.
  • The trust uses a mobile simulation vehicle which offers an innovative approach to training for staff.
  • Mental Health practitioners are in control contact centres at weekend peak times. They are piloting direct referrals to Samaritans and local mental health teams. This has improved timely patient access to mental health services.
  • The NHS 111 provider had worked collaboratively with Age UK to develop a “Sense of Ageing” course for all staff in order to raise awareness of the needs of older patients. This course was being shared nationally as an example of good practice.
  • The trust was working in partnership with a university in Poland to support the recruitment of paramedics. The university taught students in English to aid employment in the UK and the trust had also supported the integration of Polish staff into the community.

The inspection team also saw several areas where improvements must be made, including:

  • Staff in urgent and emergency care must be supported with their development through supervision
  • Response times for emergency and urgent care services must be met.
  • Governance arrangements in emergency and urgent care services must ensure that staff are aware of risks and safe practices are consistently applied.


For further information please contact CQC Regional Engagement Manager, John Scott on 07789 875809 or, for media enquiries, call the press office on 020 7448 9401 during office hours. Journalists wishing to speak to the press office outside of office hours can find out how to contact the team here. (Please note: the duty press officer is unable to advise members of the public on health or social care matters). For general enquiries, please call 03000 61 61 61.

Last updated:
29 May 2017

Notes to editors

South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust is one of ten ambulance trusts in England providing emergency medical services to Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire and Oxfordshire; an area which has a population of around 4.6 million. The trust employs around 3000 staff who are based at 40 sites. The trust receives around 1500 calls from members of the public dialling 999 every day.

This report follows a comprehensive inspection on the quality of services provided at South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust. Inspection teams include a range of clinical and other experts including experts by experience. 

Whenever CQC inspects it will always ask the following five questions of every service: Is it safe? Is it effective? Is it caring? Is it responsive to people’s needs? Is it well-led? Find out more about CQC’s approach to inspection.

Registered providers of health and social care services are required to display their ratings on their premises and on their websites so that the public can see their rating quickly and easily.

About the Care Quality Commission

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is the independent regulator of health and social care in England.

We make sure health and social care services provide people with safe, effective, compassionate, high-quality care and we encourage care services to improve.

We monitor, inspect and regulate services to make sure they meet fundamental standards of quality and safety and we publish what we find to help people choose care.