There are concerns about how the ambulance trust which serves Surrey is being run
9:30am 29th October 2015
It is after a trial saw some patients intentionally made to wait longer for an ambulance.
The health sector regulator Monitor says it relates to NHS 111 calls which were transferred to the 999 emergency system.
The project applied extra time to calls which were placed in the second most serious category, which are for issues which may be life threatening but less time-critical.
National guidelines stipulate that 75 per cent of these calls should be dealt with within eight minutes, but the trust was allowing itself up to an extra 10 minutes.
The additional time was to re-assess what type of advice or treatment patients needed, and whether an ambulance was really required.
It ran between December 2014 and February 2015, when the trust was under high pressure.
But Paul Streat, Regional Director at Monitor, says there was a clear failure of management processes: “Over the winter, there were significant demands on the NHS and it is understandable that trusts want to explore better ways of delivering the best possible care.
“But this project was poorly managed from the start, done without the proper authorisation and without enough thought given to how it might affect patients.
“We have asked the trust to review the action it took to make sure there was no harm to patients, and look again at the way decisions are taken to prevent something like this happening again.”
It is not known at this time if the project adversely affected patient care.
Mentor says as a result of the project, it has concerns about how the trust is being run and how decisions are being taken.
Adding that it has ‘reasonable grounds to suspect that the trust is in breach of its licence to provide NHS services’.
In a statement, the South East Coast Ambulance Service said: “The process was undertaken to ensure that the right response was provided to patients and that we were able to respond promptly to the most seriously ill patients.
“However we recognise that it was not well implemented and we did not use our own corporate governance processes correctly. These are serious findings.
“We have already begun to take steps to address Monitor’s concerns and as part of this process, independent reviews will assess how decisions are made within the Trust, governance processes and our approach to patient safety.
“As a Trust, we remain extremely proud of the high quality and compassionate clinical services that SECAmb provides to our patients.”