East Midlands Ambulance Service has improved but ‘is not out of the woods’

Ambulance chiefs admit there is still improvement work to be done
Ambulance chiefs admit there is still improvement work to be done

A number of improvements have been made in recent months by the East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS), according to two authorities which oversee it.

Representatives from NHS England and the service’s lead commissioner, Erewash CCG, noted a number of improvements made by EMAS since a risk summit was held in October last year – but warned it was “not out of woods”.

Among the areas judged to have improved are the relationships with stakeholders, successful recruitment of clinical vacancies, including paramedics, and more effective local management arrangements having been put in place.

But the bodies also say they will continue to monitor EMAS’s performance closely, particularly in respect of ambulance response times.

One in three patients had to wait more than eight minutes for an ambulance in December 2013, significantly short of the minimum national standard, which is for no more than a quarter of patients to have to wait that long. However, its results in January improved slightly.

Sue Noyes, chief executive of EMAS, which serves the counties of Northamptonshire, Leicestershire, Rutland, Derbyshire, Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire, said: “It means a lot to us to gain assurances from both NHS England and the CCG that we are an improving organisation. These messages will be a real boost for staff who have worked particularly hard throughout the winter months to make improvements at the same time as responding to thousands of emergency calls.

“However, we are not complacent in any way, and although we are now well on the way in this big journey, we know we still have a long way to go to offer consistently high quality services to every patient, every time.

“I am very clear, open and realistic about the work that we still need to do, particularly in the areas of staffing numbers and mix, professional development, vehicle availability at the start of shifts, and working with our staff to improve morale.”

Martin Whittle, director of operations and delivery in the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Area Team for NHS England, said: “EMAS is clearly getting to more patients, more quickly, and we have urged them to keep their foot on the pedal.

“As a result of our findings from the follow-up meeting in February, performance will now be monitored through the usual channels on a monthly basis.”

Rakesh Marwaha, chief officer for NHS Erewash, said: “I am really pleased that EMAS has developed clear plans to improve its performance in a sustainable way over the next year.

“Obviously, they are not out of the woods yet and there is a lot of hard work to be done, but we are pleased that they are now making good, steady progress.”

EMAS’s Better Patient Care programme is seeking improvements over the coming year in improving response times, increasing staff morale, better communications from the board to the floor, and vice versa, better use and availability of vehicles at the start of shifts, improving our staffing levels and making sure all staff have an annual appraisal and personal development plan.