East of England Ambulance Service fails to meet care standard

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Media captionBBC Look East's Stewart White spoke to clinical director John Martin

East of England Ambulance Service has been ordered to improve after failing to meet its care and welfare target.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) issued the demand after the trust's response times deteriorated.

Care Minister Norman Lamb, Liberal Democrat MP for North Norfolk, said: "People's lives are at risk here and this trust has to be properly led."

Andrew Morgan, the trust's interim chief executive, admitted some response times were unacceptable.

The CQC inspection report found the trust met standards in four out of five categories, but not the one for the care and welfare of people who use its services.

Emergency response times deteriorated during 2012, and while the trust achieved its targets in places such as Luton and Peterborough, it regularly failed to meet them in Norfolk and Suffolk.

'Couldn't explain why'

Patients could not be assured they would receive care in a "timely and effective manner", the report concluded.

The trust's performance against two key response targets had fallen by four per cent in Norfolk, since September.

Inspectors said managers were unable to sufficiently explain why.

Image caption Norman Lamb said he was no longer able to accept the trust's assurances

Staff said the volume of emergency calls had increased but there were not enough staff to deal with them.

They also cited delays in handing over patients at hospitals, and in sending back-up ambulances to incidents.

Mr Lamb arranged last week for ambulance staff to meet local MPs and Health Minister Earl Howe to discuss their concerns.

"Clearly the board has to be held to account for this failure today. It's the first time a trust has failed to meet a standard and that has to be taken seriously," he said.

'Not a surprise'

"I've ended up not able to accept the assurances that I'm given by the trust because things don't happen as I'm told that they are planned to happen."

Mr Morgan said the conclusion of the report was not a "surprise to me".

"I acknowledge... that our response times at the moment are not acceptable," he said.

He accepted the trust did not have enough frontline resources and was hit by delays at hospitals, poor staff morale and high sickness rates.

"We want to get to all of our serious calls as quickly as possible and yes, there's always a risk that if you don't get to someone quickly their health could deteriorate," he said.

But he said the "vast majority" of patients got a very good service from the trust.

"We know we have got problems," he said.

"The things we say we're going to do, we will do. We will improve services across the East of England, but particularly in our rural patches."

Last week, it was announced that Anthony Marsh, chief executive of West Midlands Ambulance Service, would work alongside Mr Morgan to review the service and suggest improvements.

The trust has been given a week to respond to the CQC report and to outline how it will improve.

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