Sussex’s ambulance service has agreed to formal collaborative working with a neighbouring trust covering Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire, and Oxfordshire.
South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SECAmb), which covers Sussex, Surrey and Kent, was issued with a warning notice by health regulators the Care Quality Commission (CQC) last month after an inspection in May.
Both its chief executive and chairman left earlier this year after a controversial pilot that delayed sending help to emergency calls, while the trust admitted in June it was ‘failing to reach some patients as quickly as it would like’ due to rising demand, delays at hospitals, and staff shortages.
This week SECAmb revealed it has agreed to formal collaborative working with South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) in order to deliver better outcomes for patients, more expertise, and allow the sharing of best practice between the two foundation trusts.
Geraint Davies, acting chief executive at SECAmb, said: “As we have seen elsewhere in the ambulance sector, there has been a move to share best practices and work more collaboratively in key areas.
“I’m extremely proud of the work which is already taking place within SECAmb to rise to the challenges we face as an organisation, address the issues highlighted in our recent CQC inspection and provide our patients with the level of service they deserve.
“However, it’s vital that we use every means at our disposal to achieve our aims. This is why we’ve agreed to this collaborative approach to see where we can better share knowledge.
“I’m keen that we see where we can share some of our excellent work with our colleagues at South Central and equally tap into what they do best.”
The move follows similar approaches elsewhere in the country and is in line with the Carter Review, published in February this year, which sets out how neighbouring NHS trusts can work more closely to save money and improve care.
The initial focus will be on areas identified as requiring urgent attention by the CQC.
The CQC’s warning notice identified six main areas of concern, and gave the trust until September to improve.
Inspectors found that systems to ensure enough staff are employed and deployed appropriately are not effective, NHS 111 calls are not always responded to in a timely and effective manner, processes to ensure that equipment is properly maintained are not adequate, and systems for medicines management are not operated safely and effectively.
The full CQC report is expected to be published later this year.
The proposals have been agreed by both organisations’ boards, and full accountability for all decisions will remain with the two separate unitary statutory boards.
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